Venezuela Rivals March A Month after First Deaths
CARACAS _ Supporters and foes of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro took to the streets of Caracas again on Wednesday a month after similar rival rallies brought the first bloodshed in a wave of unrest round the OPEC member nation. Red-clad sympathizers of Maduro’s socialist government held a “march for peace” while opponents wearing white gathered to denounce alleged brutality by security forces during Venezuela’s worst political troubles for a decade. Police and soldiers lined the streets with riot gear ready and many Caracas residents chose to stay at home.
Two opposition supporters and a pro-government activist were shot dead in Caracas on February 12, galvanizing an incipient protest movement and leading to near-daily clashes in Caracas and some western Andean cities. At least 22 people have died, with victims on both sides. Maduro, a 51-year-old former bus driver who won election last year to succeed the late Hugo Chavez, has declared victory over an attempted ‘coup’ against him and appears to be in little danger of being toppled by a ‘Venezuelan Spring’.
But students are vowing to keep the protests going, meaning protracted instability could bring more bloodshed and represent a further drag on Venezuela’s already troubled economy. “The opposition are causing all the violence. They should think a bit smarter. The street barricades make no sense, they just cause violence,” said government supporter Marcos Alacayo, 46, among hundreds of ‘Chavistas’ at a square in east Caracas. “They’re trying to make out the nation is in a bad state, but that just isn’t true. More people have access to healthcare, education and good food than ever. That’s what they don’t understand. Before Chavez, no one had what we have now,” added Alacayo, who works for a state-run higher education program.