Thursday, February 20, 2014

Protests Swell in Venezuela as Places to Rally Disappear

NY Times Venezuela protest crack down

As protests in Venezuela continue, government crackdowns and violent intervention are on the rise. Reason for citizen unrest in the country is mainly due to dissatisfaction with current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. However, specific criticism from the protestors side include dissatisfaction with rising violent crime rates, shortages with basic goods (sugar and toilet paper), and censorship of government opposition. The protest began, and is mainly composed of, Venezuela's younger generation and college students. Since last week four people have been shot and killed by Madura's forces including ex- Venezuelan beauty queen Genesis Carmona. So far, protests are still raging and there have been no signs of let up from either Madura or the student protestors. Times writer William Neumann compares recent Venezuelan protests under Madura to the major nationwide unrest after the death of former "charismatic" president Hugo Chavez.

President Madura's response to the protests have been largely controversial due to blatant disregard for basic human rights to free speech. Madura's policy is to deny all government blame for all injustices occurring in the country. "But the government has been quick to blame protesters for the worst violence, and on Thursday the interior minister, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, said that one of her fellow demonstrators fired the shot that killed Ms. Carmona. “This girl died from a bullet that came from her own ranks,” he said, " writes Neumann demonstrating Madura's manipulative control. To further injustices led by Madura, the president has threatened to order in a "state of exemption" on the Venezuelan city of Tachira. A "state of exemption" would entitle extreme military intervention on the city consisting of tanks, air strikes, and government troops. Madura has also threatened to prosecute all protest leaders and politicians who oppose his rule. In order to put an end to the protests the president is strategically limiting the "space" in which citizens can voice their grievances and opposition. On a literal level, Madura has shutdown former major protesting spots so that rallies have nowhere to take place and on a less literal level, the Venezuelan President has bought out the last remaining free- voice news channel.

The more Madura tries to silence the protestors the more aggressive and motivated they become. By limiting a citizen's freedom of speech, thought, and opinions the Venezuelan Government has set itself up for massive political unrest and even more international criticism. Having the most oil reserves in the world, Venezuela is a prominent actor in the world market, however a history of economic and political turmoil has led the country into further major issues.

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