SOS Venezuela


Photo by Bim Peacock

What a beautiful place for rebellion to catch fire.

As battles between Middle Eastern countries continue to ignite, rebellions in the Ukraine catch fire, and turmoil begins to spark within Eastern Asia, life would seem to go on peacefully in the western hemisphere. Venezuela, however, has seen restless citizens in the past few months as protests and demonstrations have become more prominent.

Following the roadside murder of Venezuelan actress Monica Spear, Venezuela was declared one of the most dangerous countries on Earth.  Crime runs rampant through the streets as gangs and robberies go unchecked by local authorities.  Speculators claim that this increased crime rate is due to government corruption as well as officials ignoring gun control and other safety measures.

This problem with criminals and gang warfare as well as the shortage of many basic goods and services has caused numerous student organizations to begin rebelling against the Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro.  From mid-January through February, the students have made themselves known by rioting through the streets, setting fire to barricades in the highways, and wreaking havoc on government officials with various demonstrations and protests.

Things have gotten out of hand, despite the leaders’ attempts to keep the demonstrations peaceful.  Already an estimated 13 people have died in the protests.  Locals fear the death count could rise if peace is not restored swiftly.

Excuses and blame have been thrown from both sides on the issue.  The government claims the opposition is nothing more than rambunctious youths vandalizing government property.  Approximatly forty to sixty citizens have been placed in detention centers due to the conflict.  Leaders of the opposition  retort that the government is inept to deal with the country’s economic issues and that their continually stricter regimen is unfair to their subjects.  They point out the dissent into dictatorship that Maduro is leading, as the last independent TV channel is now overrun by government and free radio is dying away.  In many of their eyes, this is the beginning of a revolution.

Local citizens, who are not openly associated with the opposition or government, seem to have a very different take than the two sides.  Many of them believe that this inner conflict is pointless.  Maduro won his election fairly, and attempting to remove him from office bears no reason.  They believe that this rebellion has caused more problems than solved.  The burning refuse barricades that the opposition has made release foul toxins into the air.  In numerous cities, citizens are required to wear gas masks simply to move between job and home.  Some sections where the opposition is particularly prominent have walled off their area, causing a lack of resource movement as well as trash buildup.  These locals even believe that the economy would stay the same, maybe even worsen, if the protests were to succeed.