Three people were killed in yesterday's massive anti-government protests in Venezuela. Tens of thousands of people marched across the country and battled onslaughts of tear gas in Caracas, reports the Associated Press. Despite government efforts to stop people from gathering , organizers claim more than a million people demonstrated around the country, reports the Miami Herald.
At nightfall youths retaliated against riot police with molotov cocktails thrown from makeshift barricades. (Pictures from the clashes.)
Two protesters and a member of the national guard. A 17-year-old boy was shot in the head in Caracas, and a woman was killed in gunfire in Tachira. The opposition said they were killed by pro-government armed groups, reports Reuters. The government said a National Guardsman was killed by a sniper in Miranda.
Provea said 400 people were arrested.
Yesterday's clashes bring the total deaths over the past three weeks to seven, reports the Guardian. Violent protests in 2014 led to over 40 deaths.
The demonstrations show that a sustained anti-Maduro movement might be forming on the streets, according to the New York Times. The opposition called for more protests today.
Yet the focus on political issues is a weakness of the opposition, which has failed to find support among the country's poor, even as hunger is decimating Maduro support among traditional loyalist sectors. The protests are protagonized by the middle class, and until the slums rise up, Maduro is not likely to fall, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But they might join a call for elections, according to the NYT. This round of protests could be different, argued a New York Times editorial last week, "if Venezuela’s fractious opposition groups agree on a list of concrete objectives and lay out a clear strategy to start addressing the country’s problems with help from the international community. Attempts to build such a consensus on issues like the release of political prisoners, a time frame for elections that have been indefinitely postponed and the distribution of humanitarian aid have failed in the past. But getting concessions from Mr. Maduro may be feasible now that a growing number of regional governments are taking a harder line against the Venezuelan government."
"This is a time of deep economic and political crisis, and it’s no surprise that Venezuelans are choosing to exercise their constitutional right to protest. The vast majority of Venezuelans want to see a democratic path out of economic hardship and political hostility, and are pushing for the establishment of an electoral calendar," said WOLA Senior Fellow David Smilde, yesterday. The organization called on the government to respect non-violent protest.
Maduro -- who characterized the demonstrations as a coup attempt -- said yesterday he welcomes the opportunity to trounce the opposition electorally, but did not give specifics about when that might occur. Regional governorship elections were postponed last year, and general elections are constitutionally mandated for 2018.
Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro condemned the Venezuelan government’s disregard for democracy and human rights yesterday, reports the Miami Herald.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez says foreigners should avoid any interference that could encourage violent extremism, including a coup, reports the Associated Press.
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