Venezuela’s energized opposition is planning sit-ins on roads, silent marches in white to commemorate the dead and other nontraditional protests as it tries to build on the momentum of recent street demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of the South American
country again April 20 to demand elections and denounce what they consider an essentially dictatorial government. They were met by curtains of tear gas and rubber bullets as they tried to march to downtown Caracas.
Later in the day, opposition leaders gathered in a show of unity at an outdoor news conference in the eastern Caracas neighborhood that has been at the heart of three weeks of near-daily protests. Some residents came out on balconies to cheer as the politicians urged supporters to don white and march silently through Caracas on April 22 to commemorate the eight people killed in the demonstrations. The opposition is planning April 24 sit-ins to block highways.
“Twenty days of resistance and we feel newly born,” opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara shouted.
A number of major Latin American
governments, including Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, called on Venezuela to take steps to increase democratic order and halt the violence that has been swirling around the protests. Across the country, clashes have been intense as protests grow in size and fervor.
The unrest was sparked by a Supreme Court decision last month to strip Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress of its few remaining powers, a move that was later reversed amid a storm of international criticism.
But the initial ruling reinvigorated Venezuela’s fractious opposition, which had been struggling to channel growing disgust with Maduro over widespread food shortages, triple-digit inflation and rampant crime.
Opponents are pushing for Maduro’s removal through early elections and the release of dozens of political prisoners.
The government last year abruptly postponed regional elections that the opposition was heavily favored to win and it cut off a petition drive aimed at forcing a referendum seeking Maduro’s removal before elections scheduled for late next year.