Venezualen protests continue; death toll reaches 29

More than a month has passed since Venezuelans began rioting against President Nicholas Maduro. The protests erupted after a series of social and economic problems, which casted doubt on the government and triggered overall chaos.

Many of the protestors participating are students, but prominent political leaders and celebrities have also joined the cause.

Venezuelans have taken to the streets of Caracas leading to gruesome skirmishes between rioters and the police.  As of March 18, the death toll has risen to 29 deaths and 365 injuries, the most recent death being that of a Venezuelan National Guard captain.  Economic policies caused high inflation and scarcity of basic goods. Today, demonstrators are demanding an end to shortages and protected freedom of speech. Some blame Venezuela’s government for these shortages because of its high level of corruption. Others blame the opposition for the country’s economic and security problems.

According to CNN, top Venezuelan leaders have accused United States officials of attempting to destabilize the government.  President Barack Obama replied to the situation stating,  “Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, [the government] ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people.”

Secretary of State John Kerry also replied, stating the administration’s hope for Maduro to begin “meaningful dialogue with the opposition.”

President Maduro threatened to remove American media outlets from the country saying he would not tolerate war propaganda against Venezuela.

“I symphasize for the Venezualen people but also feel that the stereotypical image of American politics and media is being used as a source of propaganda for the Venezualen government.” Jules Fernandes, a freshman, said.

Maduro proposed replacing CNN with Zum TV, which would allegedly provide a more accurate reporting of events.

Leopoldo Lopez, a prominent political leader and economist, has become the face of the opposition. The Venezuelan government has accused him of terrorism, murder and causing the anti-government protests. After days of hiding, Lopez turned him-self in before thousands of supporters.

On Feb. 20 the press was informed Lopez would still be tried on three counts connected to the protests, but homicide and terrorism would no longer be included.

Social media has also played an important role in the protests, with many referring to twitter as “the only free media.” However, it has been difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction, as both the opposition and the government broadcast false information via social websites.

“I am from the Mexican Border, and I know about the violence in Mexico.” Joslyn Lem, an academic co-chair of LASO, said. “But there is a lot of violence in Venezuela, and it’s three times as worse than in Mexico.”​