Following the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez on March 5 of last year, a special election was held on April 19. Venezuela's vice-president Nicholás Maduro was voted in as President, a position he has held for a little more than ten months.
Maduro and his policies have not been popular among Venezuelans. In fact, opposition to Maduro stems back to opposition to Hugo Chavez. At the beginning of this month, Leopoldo Lopez, a leader of the opposition against Hugo Chavez, called on students for a peaceful protest against serious shortages of goods and instability in the country. The initial protest, at the Catholic University of Táchira, was met with an extreme response, including beatings and detentions. As a result, the protests spread across the country. Students made up the entirety of original protestors, but many who are not students have now joined their ranks.
High levels of crime, including murder, have been plaguing the country for some time. (It has been estimated as many of 25,000 murders last year alone.) Other issues, which are included in the protests, are national food and goods shortages, a faltering economy, strict government price controls, high inflation (a staggering 56%), and claims of police brutality.
We live in a digital age, so just as social media has been key in previous protests (i.e. Arab Spring), there has been an app that has been crucial in these protests. The app is Zello, and it features live voice chat and a walkie-talkie like feature. Last week, Zello's CEO Bill Moore said that the Venezuelan state-run telecommunications company blocked access to the app. Zello immediately pursued other online routes to allow Venezuelans access again; they were successful within a day.
Below are some images of the protests in Venezuela:
The goals of the protestors are the ouster of President Maduro and a new election. It is likely that Maduro knows his chances to win may not be so strong, since he won the 2013 election by a margin of less than two percent. Perhaps the increased violence and worldwide attention in his country are getting to Maduro. He believes the U.S. is trying to overthrow his government via the U.S. media. Six days ago, he demanded that the worldwide news service CNN leave Venezuela. (He retracted the demand the following day, stating he wants all news agencies to report in a "balanced" manner.)
Back on February 18, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in to authorities to face charges of murder and terrorism that allegedly occurred during the protests. No doubt, it is a move to try and silence Lopez and lessen his authority among the opposition.
Below, you will find a two-part video of a program that recently aired on France 24 English. It features reporting on, and a discussion of, events in Venezuela. (Total time of both videos: approximately 37 minutes.)
Clearly, the uprising in Venezuela is of a people wanting to change their current situation and to control its future. There have been deaths and damage so far. The crisis needs to end soon. Otherwise, Venezuela may fall into collapse.