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What the Hell Is Going on in Venezuela? A Guide To Understanding the Chaos in Caracas

Venezuela_protester_manhandled.jpg
via YouTube
Venezuelan police arrest a protester
Even if you're not Venezuelan, with the number of venezolanos in Miami soaring since Hugo Chávez took power in 1999, chances are by now you've got plenty of friends and co-workers who are from the oil-rich South American country.

And for the past two weeks, all those friends and co-workers have been talking about is the student protests setting Venezuela on fire. Eight people have been reportedly killed, including a 22-year-old beauty queen. Meanwhile, Hugo Chávez's successor has expelled American ambassadors and international news stations.

This afternoon there is a rally in Doral to protest the violence in Venezuela. So before you show up screaming "¡Qué se caiga Fidel!" here is a guide to the chaos underway in Caracas.

See also: Caracas Protests: Three Dead, Maduro Warns of Miami Plans "To Fill Venezuela With Blood"

What are the protests all about?
Most of the protesters appear to be Venezuelan college students in their teens and twenties. They are upset about a number of things, but the main concern is insecurity. Violence has plagued Venezuela since long before Chávez, but the number of homicides has soared since he took over. The country's official homicide rate (39 per 100,000) puts it in the top five in the world, and independent observers think the real rate is twice as high.

Even the government has tried to clamp down on violence recently by reigning in motorcycles riders, notorious for drive-by robberies and assassinations. Now, however, newspapers report squads of National Guardsmen on motorcycles are patrolling Caracas, "terrorizing" residents by firing rubber bullets at their buildings.

For many outsiders, the January 7 killing of soap opera star and beauty queen Monica Spear signaled that security had reached an all-time low. But Venezuelans have been dealing with rising death tolls for a decade.

Maduro_with_Chavez_photo.jpg
Valter Campanato/Agência Brasil
Nicolas Maduro has struggled to live up to Chávez's legacy
The protesters' second main complaint is the country's sick economy. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- government price controls intended to help the poor, inflation hit a record 54 percent last year. Shortages of basic goods like sugar and toilet paper are now common, and apagones-- or blackouts -- remain a problem.

What's going on?
It's hard to tell, exactly. Videos of students being kicked, punched, and allegedly shot by government forces have spread on YouTube and other websites. Perhaps the clearest evidence of a crime is this video put together by newspaper Últimas Noticias. It shows government agents opening fire on protesters armed with rocks. One student was killed.

But objective reports on the violence are few and far between. Ever since a 2002 coup against Chávez -- one tacitly backed by the U.S. and enabled by right-wing TV stations -- the government has cracked down on opposition media. Under government pressure, opposition station Globovision was sold to chavistas last year. And in the past week, the government has banned a Colombian cable station and CNN for supposedly impartial reporting.


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13 comments
frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

..........................any third-world resource rich country that was looted by a regime has to end in chaos and killings to obscure the future possible advancement of pursuit of the crimes

from adolph hitler in germany, to idi amin in the congo,  to ferdinand marco in the phillipines,  to robert mugabe in zimbabwe,  to bashar in syria,  these clowns have to,  in the end,  foment violence and killings and pit people against each other, so that the tracks to these clowns are covered

innocent civilians will struggle and possibly die and all the better for the regime who no longer has to provide basic necessities,  nor can be voted against, nor can be threatened by such displaced and disenfranchised or dead

Sindy Chevere
Sindy Chevere

Yea who cares I am a American why we always have to fix others country's problem fight if u from wherever the issue is from ! I fight for the usa. Sorry not meant to offend anyone I am just saying. I am going to the beach wish yall well

Carl Snyder
Carl Snyder

Nobody cares. If you love your country so much, go back and fight for change.

George Aguilar
George Aguilar

In Argentina and the local news has a live feed of pro Chavez /current tool president. Interesting stuff..looks like a shit storm

Gabriel E. Meza
Gabriel E. Meza

New Times, please stop spreading the myth that there was right wing TV channels sponsoring a coup in 2002. That lie was the official version of the government and spent thousand of dollars creating fake documentaries showed all over the world, massive propaganda. Exactly the same that is trying to repeat now. The only difference is that back in 2002, people did not a have phone with video capabilities, twitter, Facebook, etc. Government propaganda factory convinced the world that the shootings came from opposition . Now we proved them wrong, now and then , shooting came from the government.

Dina Weinstein
Dina Weinstein

Today's rally, "S.O.S Venezuela, for the world to see," will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. in JC Bermudez Park, 3000 NW 87th Ave., Doral.

Dina Weinstein
Dina Weinstein

What are the details of the protests in Doral? Location? Time? Is there one Sunday?

Ashley Sokol
Ashley Sokol

Alexandra Nunez & Larry Francisco Russian

MikeMillerMiami
MikeMillerMiami

With all due respect Gabriel, that is simply not true. In fact, the complicity of media stations during the coup is the reason why the government has cracked down on and coopted the media in Venezuela. I'm not saying that's a good thing by any means, but ignoring or distorting history dooms us to repeat it.

MikeMillerMiami
MikeMillerMiami

I agree that there is a lot of misinformation being passed around on social media. But the video (linked above) from Ultimas Noticias appears credible. People on both sides have been killed and, as in 2002, it's difficult to know what, exactly, is going on.

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