Hungry Venezuelans Demand Change
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Protests are growing larger and more frequent as food shortages worsen.
Images of protesters in Caracas running through clouds of tear gas and bloodied by state security forces have been front and center in recent media coverage of Venezuela. Other cities around the country also have been hit hard by police, national guard troops and the regime’s paramilitary forces as the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro tries to contain a wildfire of rebellion.
Since 1999, when Hugo Chávez launched his Bolivarian revolution, sporadic periods of social unrest have been quashed with force. But this time things are different. The government is running out of money to buy imports, and since it has crippled domestic production, privation is growing more profound.
These protests were initially sparked by the Supreme Court’s attempt to shut down the opposition-controlled National Assembly. They have flourished because of hunger. Venezuela remains a long way from a return to the modern liberal democracy that its 1961 constitution envisioned. But the status quo is unsustainable.
So far this month pro-government militias or the police have allegedly killed three protesters in and around Barquisimeto, the capital city of Lara state. A demonstrator was fatally shot in Valencia—the third largest city in the country—and the governor of Carabobo state has admitted that the police were responsible. Another young protester was killed in a satellite city of Caracas, and an 87-year-old Caracas woman died when tear gas inundated her home.
Roving bands of government-sponsored militias terrorize civil society as they have for more than a decade. On Wednesday one gang burst into the Basilica of St. Teresa in Caracas, where Cardinal Jorge Urosa was to say Mass, and began attacking parishioners.
Yet protests are swelling and becoming more frequent. Video taken from a tall Caracas building on April 8 captures a mass of humanity blanketing the wide Avenida Francisco Miranda as far as the eye can see.
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