Widespread protests in Venezuela have been occurring since the government declared its 60-day economic emergency in January 2016. Ever since the economic crisis, most of the population lacks basic medicine, food, healthcare, and security. According to a survey conducted by the Central University of Venezuela, the average Venezuelan lost 19 pounds last year. Without medicine, universal health care has been rendered useless and crime has become rampant in the capital city of Venezuela, Caracas, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. With 76% of its population under the poverty line, according to extensive research by The Economist, Venezuela’s economy is on the brink of collapse.
The turmoil exacerbated with three major incidents happening in a short period of time. On March 29th, the Venezuelan Supreme Court dissolved the Parliament and transferred all legislative powers to itself. Although this decision was reversed three days later, the public was already outraged and protested. To make matters worse, on April 7th, the opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, was banned from any political work for 15 years. Capriles, a governor who had ran for president twice, said, “The government is acting like a dictatorship” to CNN reporters. The final incident came after several violent protests on April 10th, when police members fatally shot a 20-year-old student in the neck during a demonstration in the city of Valencia. Since then, at least eight people have been killed with hundreds of marchers jailed during protests.
On the morning of April 20th, over 2.5 million marched for the return of democracy in Venezuela, which is proportional to 25 million people protesting in USA. Shortly after, when President Maduro deployed the National Guard and armed Pro-Government militias onto the demonstration sites, the protesters were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and violent resistance. In a speech later that afternoon by President Maduro, he labeled the protesters as “Violent Terrorists” and “Hooded people”, causing even more outcry from the public.
As the citizens continue to call upon the return to democracy, President Maduro has made it clear that he is willing to do anything to keep his power in the Venezuelan government. Whether the President will finally step down or win the battle against his own people is to be seen in the coming weeks.