Things in Venezuela have not been good in a long time. The country has been dealing with a shrinking economy, outrageous inflation, and the total lack of common and necessary items like food and even tampons. A recent report shows that more than 80 percent of Venezuelans are living in poverty. (For reference, that is equivalent to more than 200 million Americans living in poverty.)
This week, Venezuelans took to the streets to show the world and the Nicolás Madruo-led government that they have had enough. But the Venezuelan National Guard was quick to make things violent as they attacked protesters. Here’s a recap of this week in Venezuela.
Venezuelans took to the streets this week in protest of Nicolás Maduro and the ruling Socialist Party.
The trigger for the large-scale, nationwide protests was a move by the Supreme Court, full of pro-Maduro judges, to nullify and seize power from the Venezuelan National Assembly. The move was seen as the Maduro government making a stunning jump to change Venezuela into a dictatorship.
On March 29, the Venezuelan Supreme Court, full of pro-Maduro judges, tried undercutting the National Assembly to silence the opposition party.
In the 2015 elections, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD in the Spanish acronym) won two-thirds of the seats in Congress. The election was a strong stance by the Venezuelan people standing up to a government that they do not agree with. The Maduro-led government has been working to slowly chip away at the credibility and power of MUD since the 2015 elections.
“The objective is to put the magistrates on trial (and) get the government to publish an electoral timetable,” opposition lawmaker Stalin Gonzalez told Union Radio, according to Reuters.
“This country has changed and wants to get out of the crisis,” Gonzalez continued.
MUD, and other national governments, have alleged that the actions by the Supreme Court and the Maduro administration are nothing more than a thinly-veiled coup against the Venezuelan people.
“The United States condemns the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s March 29 decision to usurp the powers of the democratically elected National Assembly,” reads a statement by the U.S. State Department. “This rupture of democratic and constitutional norms greatly damages Venezuela’s democratic institutions and denies the Venezuelan people the right to shape their country’s future through their elected representatives. We consider it a serious setback for democracy in Venezuela.”
In an attempt to keep the Maduro administration in power, the National Guard was deployed to set up blockades to stop members of the National Assembly from voting on removing the pro-Maduro Supreme Court justices behind the power grab.
But the assembly members outsmarted the National Guard and made it to the National Assembly building before the blockades were erected for the vote. National Assembly members voted unanimously to start ousting the pro-Maduro Supreme Court justices behind the apparent coup d’état.
“What you’re seeing here today is basically a group of Venezuelans who are resisting a coup d’etat,” said Assembly President Julio Borges, according to Miami Herald. “The coup d’etat in Venezuela continues, getting worse and deeper every day.”
But, Nicolás Maduro and his government are claiming that the opposition party is the party responsible for a coup on Venezuela.
“It’s untrue that a coup has taken place in Venezuela,” the government said in a statement Thursday, according to The Washington Post. “On the contrary, the institutions have taken corrective legal action to stop the distractive, coup-like actions of an opposition that has declared itself openly in contempt of the decisions made by the republic’s top court.”
The latest news of the protests in Venezuela is the death of a 19-year-old opposition protester Jairo Ortiz.
“In the face of the vile assassination of the young Jairo Ortiz, we manifest our firm condemnation of such a vile act,” Venezuelan human rights activist and politician said on Twitter on Friday.
Ortiz is the latest victim of violence perpetuated against protesters by the National Guard this week as they also try to shut down access to the protests.
“It is Mr. Maduro who has ordered shut all the accesses to Caracas to stop people expressing their repudiation,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles told Fox News. “He’s terrified.”
The Venezuelan people are adamant that the government needs to allow for fair elections sooner rather than later so they can get out of the current government they are forced to accept.
“We’re not taking to the streets because we don’t like Maduro,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles told SF Gate. “The way we get rid of Maduro is with elections; that is how we change the worst government our country has ever seen.”
The U.S. government is trying to apply pressure to Maduro to release political prisoners and allow for immediate elections to ease the turmoil gripping the South American country.
“It’s perfectly predictable that the government is going to keep radicalizing,” Venezuelan pollster Luis Vicente Leon told The Washington Post.
But with a visible civil unrest and a determination by the people to change their country’s government, it is unsure when these elections will happen.
Perhaps more international pressure will be needed to force Maduro’s hand into having an election.