This week we are turning our attention to Venezuela, where the worse unrest in 10 years is being marked by violent clashes in Caracas between police and anti-government demonstrators led by former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles have led to an intensifying situation and talk of a coup attempt. As of this week, 13 people have been killed in the violence, with no signs of a slowdown. On 25 February, the US ordered three Venezuelan diplomats out of the country in reprisal for Maduro’s expulsion of three American embassy staff accused of fomenting the current unrest.
Our partners at Southern Pulse are on the ground in Venezuela closely monitoring the situation and providing us with dispatches and prognoses.
Southern Pulse expects protests to continue in Venezuela, disrupting economic activity nationwide, particularly in the capital. While the opposition is highly unlikely to succeed in removing the PSUV from power in the short term, the protests are creating significant turmoil and internal government tensions that are weakening the standing of President Maduro.
Non-government organizations in Venezuela, inclusing Provea, Foro Penal and the Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello de Caracas, report that over 200 protesters were detained in the last week of protest with some alleging police abuse or torture. Complaints by protesters in custody include rape, electric shock, beatings, isolation and a lack of due process.
The economic crisis in Venezuela, including inflation higher than any other country in South America and scarcity of basic goods, catalyzed this series of protests. On 12 February 2014, a group of students marched to the Ministerio Público to request the release of a group of students previously detained. That march ended in violence, leaving two dead. Other frustrated citizens joined the students while pro-government forces threatened, and ultimately attacked the students and other demonstrators.
Accusations of censorship are also gaining momentum after the government of Venezuela admitted to ousting NTN24 a Colombia television station, and the last independent televised media remaining in Caracas, and the only media showing live video coverage of the 12 February protests. A spokesperson for Twitter, Nu Wexler, also confirmed, in an interview with Bloomberg, that the Venezuelan government blocked Twitter’s image servers there leading to outages…