Thousands of Venezuelans gathered on the streets of Caracas yesterday to demand authorities permit a recall referendum against President Nicolás Maduro this year. The demonstration, dubbed "the taking of Caracas," was the largest this year. Protesters filled up more than 10 miles of eastern Caracas, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Miami Herald said there were hundreds of thousands of protesters.
The buildup this week was tense: the government detained a few opposition leaders, accusing them of planning violence, and deported several international journalists planning to cover the protests. (See Tuesday's post and Wednesday's briefs.)
Ahead of the protest, police set up roadblocks to enter the capital and interrogated people seeking to enter about their motives, reports the New York Times. The lines at the city's main highway entrances stretched for miles, and several subway stations were closed, notes the WSJ. Caracas Chronicles has images of people entering the city on foot.
The image was one of a national strike, with shops and businesses closed to allow their employees to participate, according to the Miami Herald.
But citizens responded peacefully to the government's hardball, reports Efecto Cocuyo. That in and of itself is important news, emphasized the opponent oriented Caracas Chronicles.
Opposition leaders promised to maintain an agenda of demonstrations in coming weeks. Later in the evening some neighborhoods responded to the MUD coalition's call for a "cacerolazo" -- a protest of banging pots and pans, reports Efecto Cocuyo separately.
Though the protests were organized to pressure authorities to permit the vote to occur this year -- which would trigger an election to select Maduro's replacement if he is ousted -- the discontent participants expressed surpassed political frustrations, and included lack of food supplies, work, rampant violence and lack of state services, reports the New York Times.
An already difficult situation has become steadily worst throughout the year: electricity shortages have forced the government to pare down the work week, and food shortages mean supplies are transported under armed guard, reports the NYTimes.
WOLA put out a statement ahead of the protests, saying the government "appears to have chosen to pave the way for deeper confrontation by intimidating and harassing opposition figures ... At a time when the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans want solutions, this hostility is both unjust and counterproductive.”
Caracas Chronicles has a piece a by Francisco Toro similarly argues that "by raising the stakes ahead of the protests, by going all out to intimidate and threaten protesters, the government amplified the volume of the signal their participation sent. Marching in Caracas today was the polar opposite of 'cheap talk.'"
Speaking to a far smaller crowd, Maduro told supporters that opponents are planning a coup, similar to the one that briefly toppled his predecessor Hugo Chávez in 2002. Authorities arrested people planning to fire on crowds dressed in national guard uniforms, he said.
Photo Credit: @luifergarcia (Efecto Cocuyo)
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