Caracas, Venezuela / AFP
Protesters seeking to oust Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro staged fresh street rallies but drew scant turnout, a setback the divided opposition blamed on repressive tactics and a spiraling economic crisis.
Some 500 Maduro opponents gathered in eastern Caracas, waving the red, yellow and blue Venezuelan flag and banners denouncing the daily woes a crippling recession has wrought on the country: shortages of food and medicine, power cuts and violent crime.
But the numbers remained relatively small, especially given that nearly seven in 10 Venezuelans say they want the leftist president to go. The rally’s leader, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, said many Venezuelans could not protest because “most of them are right now queuing for food and medicine.” Other protesters blamed fears of government repression a week after demonstrators braved tear gas during a march against Maduro and the state of emergency he has imposed.
Those disturbances raised fears of deeper unrest in Venezuela, where anti-government rallies in 2014 led to riots that killed 43 people.
“I am marching in fear, but I am marching,” said one demonstrator, Daniela Huizi, referring to the threat of government repression.
“If it were not for the strength of arms, they would have nothing.”
But experts also pointed to problems and mistakes in the opposition’s court.
The low turnout partly reflected divisions between Capriles and other, more radical leaders in the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a shaky center-right coalition held together mainly by shared hatred of Maduro, political analyst Benigno Alarcon of Andres Bello Catholic University said.
“Capriles kind of did this on his own, to the chagrin of other parties,” he said.
Too heavy on politics
Fellow analyst Nicmer Evans said the opposition’s game plan of pressuring the electoral authorities to organize a referendum on removing Maduro from office focuses too heavily on politics and not enough on the daily problems facing ordinary Venezuelans.