Tensions Rise in Venezuela

By Lara Cornelius, Staff Writer

Opposition demonstrators take part in a protest against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas
Courtesy Slate

Yesterday in Venezuela, opposition groups took part in anti-government protests across the country and at least three people, now numbering 7, were killed, and more than 50 people were injured. National Guard troops and militias used rubber bullets and tear gas against thousands of people. These protests involved crowds of Venezuelans who rallied to demand new presidential elections. They rallied for the release of jailed opposition politicians. They rallied against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. He accused the opposition of attacking the police rather than apologizing for the deaths.

Witnesses of the shootings claim that the gunmen belong to “colectivos,” pro-government militant grassroots groups. They say they are defending Maduro’s socialist revolution from elitist parts of the society. The government and supporters blame forces led by the US for the state of the Venezuelan economy and say that they are victims of an “economic war” being fought against them.

The anti-government protests have four key demands. They want general elections in 2017, the creation of “humanitarian channel” to allow medication to be imported to counter the severe shortages in Venezuela, the removal of Supreme Court justices who stripped the National Assembly of its powers, and the release of all political prisoners.

Opposition says that the government has created a dictatorship. The government has protected Maduro, blocking any attempts to remove him from power. The last vote in 2015 gave the opposition the majority, pushing critics to claim that the elections have been delayed because the President is not hopeful about the outcome.

Furthermore, on March 29, the Venezuelan Supreme Court transferred all legislative power to itself. This decision did away with the opposition-controlled legislative branch and put the entirety of the Venezuelan government under the control of President Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party. Although this decision was reversed, protests still erupted.

The country of Venezuela is suffering from a severe crisis. Food shortages have become an immense issue for the citizens of the country who have endured, in most cases, months without basic necessities such as milk, eggs, toilet paper, etc. Furthermore, even when there is a supply of food, prices are so high for these simple commodities that very little of the population can afford them. There is also a shortage in supply of medicines and public hospitals have fallen apart without the ability to support themselves. Corruption, mismanagement of infrastructure, and government overspending are all causes of high inflation in Venezuela.

The country only has $10.5 billion in reserves left, unemployment is set pass 25%, and the economy is continuing to shrink from 18% last year. The outlook does not look good for Venezuela.

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