In recent weeks, economic and social grievances in Venezuela have deteriorated to unparalleled levels. Long sustaining one of the highest crime rates in the world and an extreme inflation rate to boot, nationwide protests in Venezuela drew global attention when three people were killed as a result on February 12.
The recent protests in Venezuela are not completely unprecedented. Over the past decade, government supporters and opponents have waged protests and counter protests that threatened stability in the country.
Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, has received the majority of the blame for the current conflict, though fault has been placed elsewhere as well. Maduro assumed presidency and was subsequently elected following the cancer-inflicted death of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. As Chavez’s vice president, Maduro undoubtedly bears the brunt of accusations against Chavismo policies.
Yet Maduro’s methods to quell protests have been far from peaceful. Tear gas and batons torment protestors while the state-security service fire live rounds at demonstrators. The government even went so far as to arrest opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.
Though the formal charges against Lopez cited terrorism and murder, they eventually changed to arson and conspiracy. Essentially, he was arrested for organizing the protests that present one of the largest threats to Maduro’s 11-month-old regime.
While some think Lopez is a primary instigator of unrest, others accuse the United States of attempting to destabilize the Venezuelan government. Three U.S. diplomats were recently asked to leave Venezuela within a 48-hour timeline shortly after the protests began. President Obama, however, has denied these claims and asserted that Maduro is simply trying to distract from his country’s own misgivings by placing blame on others.
Regardless of undermining accusations among leaders and countries, the fact is that Venezuela is experiencing dire unrest. Widespread discontent of economic and social proportions plague the people daily and, whether or not Lopez instigated protests with violent intentions, the goal is a reformation of Venezuelan society.
– Jaclyn Stutz