Intense photos show Venezuela being rocked by the ‘mother of all protests’

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Demonstrators scuffle with security forces during an opposition rally in Caracas, Venezuela.
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Thomson Reuters

Venezuela’s protracted economic, political, and social crises have burst onto the streets again in recent weeks.

The recent spate of demonstrations have seen thousands of Venezuelans out protesting their government.

Prior to Wednesday, five people had been killed in clashes around the country.

Some people have been struck by gunfire from police, and at least one officer is facing charges over a death. Others were allegedly shot by government supporters.

This week, opposition leaders called demonstrators to the streets on Wednesday in what they dubbed the “mother of all marches.”

“President Maduro has called his supporters to march in some of the same places that the opposition had already targeted their supporters,” David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, said on Wednesday. “Maduro also called in a military plan, so there’s military in the streets in Caracas.”

“So everything is set for their to be violence today,” he said. By late Wednesday, three more people had reportedly been killed in the protests.

The photos below, many of them from Wednesday, show the intensity with which Venezuelans have taken to the streets in recent days.


This round of protests was partly inspired by the supreme court’s attempt to usurp the legislature’s power, which one government minister decried as a “rupture of constitutional order.” The court walked that move back, but in the weeks since, opposition politicians have been barred from office, deepening public ire.

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Demonstrators chase and beat an unidentified person during a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, April 10, 2017.
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REUTERS/Christian Veron

Source: AFP, Reuters


Public protest has been common over the last few months, but the opposition has struggled to gain leverage over the Maduro government, both because of government efforts to block it and because of internal divisions in the opposition coalition.

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A demonstrator is arrested by riot police while rallying against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, April 10, 2017.
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REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

In recent days, Maduro has upped his rhetoric. On Monday, he announced plans to expand the number of civilians in armed militias from 100,000 to 500,000. “A gun for every militiaman,” he said, adding that it was time for Venezuelans to decide if they were “with the homeland” or against it.

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A demonstrator throws a Molotov cocktail while clashing with riot police during a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, April 10, 2017.
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REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Source: Associated Press


On Tuesday, Maduro said he was activating Plan Zamora to maintain order and stability in Venezuela in the face of alleged threats of a coup that he attributed to the US. On Wednesday, he accused Julio Borges, parliamentary president and opposition leader, of “a crime against the constitution.”

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Demonstrators grab a riot police officer at a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, April 10, 2017.
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REUTERS/Christian Veron

Source: El Universal, EFE


Wednesday’s protest got off to a tense start. In the Libertador district in western Caracas (the most violent city in the world two years running) security forces reportedly impeded opposition protesters from gathering, firing tear gas to force them to disperse. The government has also blocked streets and cut subway service in the capital.

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Demonstrators clash with riot police during the so-called mother of all marches against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, April 19, 2017.
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REUTERS/Christian Veron

Source: El Universal, Citizens’ Council for Public Security, The Guardian


Two people, both students, had been killed by late afternoon. One, an 17-year-old student, had no plans to protest and was going to play soccer in the capital when he was struck by gunshots allegedly fired by government supporters.

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Demonstrators clash with riot police during the so-called mother of all marches against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, April 19, 2017.
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REUTERS/Christian Veron

Source: Reuters, The Guardian


In the western city of San Cristobal, an opposition stronghold near the Colombian border, a 23-year-old university student died after being shot by armed men on motorbikes who were allegedly government supporters. She was leaving a protest when she was struck.

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Demonstrators march during the so-called mother of all marches against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, April 19, 2017.
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REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Source: Reuters, The Guardian


Another death was reported in Guayana, bringing the total to at least eight so far in this round of protests.

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Demonstrators clash with riot police during the so-called mother of all marches against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, April 19, 2017.
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REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Source: El Tiempo, El Informador


Venezuelans’ quality of life has also deteriorated. Last year, 13% of the country rated their lives as thriving, down from 57% in 2012, the year before Maduro took office. Nine out of 10 said the economy was getting worse, and four of five said they had struggled to afford food over the previous year.

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An opposition demonstrator blocks the way of an armored car as riot police clashes with demonstrators during the so-called mother of all marches against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, April 19, 2017.
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REUTERS/Marco Bello

Source: Gallup


“We have to protest because this country is dying of hunger,” said Alexis Mendoza, a 53-year-old administrator marching in the Caracas neighborhood of El Paraiso. “There are a lot of people in the opposition and they are full of courage.”

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Riot police take position while clashing with demonstrators during the so-called mother of all marches against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, April 19, 2017.
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REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Source: Reuters


The activity in the streets — both pro- and anti-government demonstrations and the heavy security presence — has drawn comparisons to clashes prior to a 2002 coup that briefly deposed then-President Hugo Chavez. Maduro accused the opposition of trying to depose him as well.

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Demonstrators clash with riot police during the so-called mother of all marches against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, April 19, 2017.
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REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Source: Reuters


The international community has raised alarm about the situation. Eleven Latin American countries signed a letter on Monday calling on the Maduro government to schedule local elections that have been delayed. Maduro’s government has rejected regional action as “meddling.”

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Riot police officers take position while clashing with demonstrators during the so-called mother of all marches against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, April 19, 2017.
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REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Source: Reuters, BBC


“The country is in a state of constitutional impasse and institutional paralysis,” said Julia Buxton, a professor at Central European University. “Neither the government nor the opposition want to be seen conceding ground, both lack a broad popular mandate … and they have locked the country into a destructive zero-sum game.”

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A demonstrator throws a tear-gas grenade back while clashing with riot police during the so-called mother of all marches against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, April 19, 2017.
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REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Source: Inter-American Dialogue


“In light of the extreme gravity of the country’s conditions, there is always the chance that violence could spread and even get out of control,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. “More likely, however, is that violence will be largely contained, the government will hold on, and the country will hold presidential elections late next year,” presenting the government’s most severe test, ending with what will likely be an electoral loss.

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Demonstrators rally during the so-called mother of all marches against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, April 19, 2017.
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REUTERS/Christian Veron

Source: Inter-American Dialogue


“In Venezuela, there is no peace, no justice,” Jose Rafael Rojas, 60, told The Washington Post, saying he had taken the day off work to join the march. “Having to search for food is very frustrating for me. Every time I look for corn flour, I can never find it.”

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An effigy depicting Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro is set alight during the traditional burning of Judas as part of Holy Week celebrations, at a street in Caracas, Venezuela, April 17, 2017.
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Reuters/Marco Bello

Source: The Washington Post