Venezuela: Chavez’s legacy falls into chaos

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CARACAS, VENEZUELA (LC – SOUTH AMERICA)

Opposition leaders have called for new mass protests on Monday, after twelve people were killed in Caracas in three days of street fighting, protests and looting. The latest figures raise the total number of deaths during growing protests to 20, over the past four weeks.

What has happened?

National Assembly President Julio Borges disposing of Supreme Court decision.

On March 29th, the Supreme Court of Venezuela issued a ruling that effectively took over the functions of Congress, siding with socialist President Nicolas Maduro against an opposition that won a congressional majority in late 2015. The contempt charge against the opposition party was part of a vote-buying case against three lawmakers. The legislators were no longer sitting, but the court ruled parliamentary leaders did not handle their case legally. Venezuela’s top court had been blocking most of the National Assembly’s actions since the opposition win, but this triggered a constitutional crisis.

Protestors and police standing off on a freeway in the capital, April 4th.

The Supreme Court backed down the next day, in the face of protests. The parliament had already been at odds with the president and judiciary.

This political crisis comes on the back of an economic crisis that has people struggling to gain access to food. Petroleum currently comprises over 90% of Venezuela’s exports, and petroleum prices fell from over $100 per barrel to just over $50 in 2014, and remains at that low mark. President Maduro’s government had already delayed local elections, since the socialist party has been losing popularity with the country’s increasingly desperate people.

The country has been desperate for years, this is a photo of a food line from February 2014.

After a week, on April 6th the protests turned deadly, when Jairo Ortiz, a 19 year old college student, was shot dead by police while protesting, marking the first death since the constitutional crisis. Over the past three weeks, the government has been resorting to increasingly violent means to repress increasingly large and violent protests.

Attempting to maintain normalcy, President Maduro attended a military ceremony on April 11th to commemorate the anniversary of a failed coup against his predecessor Hugo Chavez. When he left the ceremony, an attempted photo-op turned sour, and the state broadcaster cut off the feed as a crowd started throwing objects at the President.

The opposition attempted to bring the fight to a head when it the organized the “Mother of All Protests” on April 19th. They managed to mobilize 2.5 million people in Caracas, and another 4 million in the rest of the country. The fighting has extended over the last three days, leading to the death toll of twelve.

This is an alleged pro-government gang mobilizing to counter last week’s protests. Both sides are increasingly utilizing paramilitary gangs.

For updates on this story, and to see how the Monday protests unfold, continue to follow Lima Charlie News.

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