Since Venezuela’s protests began, six people have died. As the violence intensifies, social media continues to inform the world.
Warning: Below are graphic images of the terrifying hell lived in Venezuela last night.
It is sometimes hard to get the context of the videos on YouTube. But, as is evident in the video below, it is not difficult to discern the fear in people’s voices, the alarming yelling (“murderer!” “dirty assassin!”), the wounded body (or is he dead?) abandoned on the street, the random shots fired, the burning buildings.
In the video below, it seems two women witnessed the National Guard firing shots and breaking into buildings.
The women can be heard: “They are coming into my building, please. That is my building (which she watches from across the street) … They cracked open the gate. What nightmare. Why?” We hear sobbing and sheer fear in their voices: “Maldita! … Shut our door properly.”
In the video below, it seems the National Guard sped into the scene in the white Jeep. A man can be heard: “They arrived firing shots in the air. … They are real shots. .. They killed him. Yes. Yes, he killed him. …”
Táchira department borders with Colombia, and President Nicolas Maduro said there are Colombian paramilitaries who infiltrated protests there. He said, “They are Colombians sent by Alvaro Uribe and the fascist leader who is imprisoned.” Maduro added, “If there is a need, I am ready to send the tanks, the troops, the airplanes, and all the military force because we will preserve Táchira as a Venezuelan State.” As the Tweet above informed, Táchira department no longer has electricity or water supply. The telephone lines there are also down.
The opposition is encouraging people to come together for another great march to be held next Saturday, February 22.
Last Tuesday, February 18, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in to the National Guard on what supporters say are trumped-up charges of inciting violence. The government alleged he was planning a coup.
More than 10,000 of Lopez’s supporters gathered at La Plaza Brion in Caracas. They chanted, “Leopoldo, amigo, el pueblo está contigo. Leopoldo, friend, the people are with you.”
Lopez said he hoped his arrest would awaken Venezuela to the corruption and economic disaster caused by 15 years of socialist rule. He was taken by helicopter to a military base outside Caracas.
On Tuesday evening, his supporters released a pre-recorded video he left behind.
In the video, shown above, Lopez asked his supporters to organize themselves but to do so without violence. He said, “Violence is the tool of those who have no reason.”
Lopez left a special message for the young. He said, “Young Venezuelan, in you is your future which today is a dark future, which today lacks hope, but it can be a much better future for you, for those close to you, for your children. But it depends on you. It depends on your vocation. It depends on your irreverence. It depends on your determination to find justice, to turn that lack of hope into collective hope. We are on the right side of history. We are on the right side of justice. We are on the side of the truth.”
The protesters on the streets are mostly between the ages of 18 and 24.
Lopez said he found the strength for the current struggle in his small children, Manuela and Leopoldo, and in thoughts of their future; and in witnessing his kids’ innocence, and knowing they are not yet aware of what is happening around them.
He appears with his wife, Lilian Tintori.
Lopez is certainly popular and charismatic, and he is a powerful speaker, motivator and organizer. Who is this shining star?
Lopez was born into a well-off family with links to the business and oil sector. He is the great-great-grand nephew of Simon Bolivar, “El Libertador,” who helped lead Latin America’s independence from Spain. Bolivar’s half-sister, Juana Bolivar, is Lopez’s fourth grandmother making him one of Bolívar’s few living relatives.
(Not even fiction could make this up! Remember how the late Hugo Chavez was obsessed with Simon Bolivar? Hugo Chavez liked to think of himself as a modern-day Bolivar and so tapped into a nationalist sentiment to win support. Bolivar’s portrait was often a backdrop during televised speeches in which Chavez read Bolivar’s writings. At public events, Chavez sometimes brandished Bolivar’s sword, and there were rumors that he occasionally left an empty chair for Bolivar’s “spirit” during meetings or when he dined with his family.)
Lopez, 42, studied sociology at Kenyon College in Ohio and received a master’s degree in public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996.
He served as mayor of Caracas’s Chacao district from 2000 to 2008.
The government barred him with 400 other Venezuelans in 2008 from running for public office, charging him with corruption when he worked at state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA. He is banned from running for office until 2019, even though the charges have never been proved.
He was a professor at the Andres Bello Catholic University.
Analysts say he may have a hidden agenda in leading the protests and may be seeking to position himself as the opposition’s leader by pushing aside Henrique Capriles Radonski, who narrowly lost a special presidential election last April to Maduro. Lopez bowed out of the presidential race in January 2012 to support Henrique Capriles.
Capriles has adopted a less confrontational and more pragmatic approach in dealing with the government that controls parliament, the courts, the media and the military. The opposition coalition, made up of 30 often divided parties, continues to struggle to agree on a unified strategy.
In a 2009 classified cable released by Wikileaks, the political counsellor of the United States embassy in Caracas, Robin D. Meyer, wrote that Lopez had become a “divisive figure within the opposition.”
The hashtags used by Lopez’s supporters are #lasalida (which in Spanish means both “the exit” and “the solution”) #ResistenciaVzla, #SOSVenezuela, #VZLAunidacontraelfascismo, and #Prayforvenezuela.
Lopez remains detained in the military prison of Ramo Verde on the outskirts of Caracas. A hearing of charges blaming him for a deadly episode of violence was held in the prison, and not in the lawful Palace of Justice. The government said the decision was made for Lopez’s own protection — but it’s really to avoid protesters gathering outside. Protesters had accumulated outside the Caracas courthouse where he was due to attend the hearing.
Venezuela is spiraling out of control. Who can contain the chaos? How?
As the sun sets, I pray for the people of Venezuela.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Lula supports Nicolas Maduro.