The capital city of Venezuela is on the brink of its own ‘Arab Spring’ as ten of thousands anti-government protesters took to the streets of Caracas demanding the end to the current socialist-leaning government.
The protesters have not only surged in numbers they have surged in defiance of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s crack down. Yesterday, the protesters shut down the six-lane highway that is the key thoroughfare of the capital city.
The protesters, many of them students, are protesting the falling living standards of many Venezuelans, the rampant violence and many of the economic policies of Maduro’s administration. The country is living under a 56 percent inflation rate, stagnant wages and shortages on everything from food to toilet paper.
The protests that have sprung up around the country are in their second week. The protests in Caracas have attracted the most people and have resulted in three deaths.
To add fuel to the fire, Maduro ordered the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats. Lopez is the Harvard educated, former mayor of Chacao who is wanted on trumped up charges of murder and trying to over throw the government. Meanwhile, the U.S. diplomats are accused of aiding the protesters and trying to destabilize the government – they have until Wednesday to leave the country.
Lopez turned himself in to the National Guard right in the middle of the sea of protesters and was placed in an armored vehicle while thousands of his supporters pleaded for his release.
As of late yesterday evening, Lopez remained in custody and is believed to be in a Caracas military jail.
Anti-government protesters were met on the street by pro-government demonstrators dressed in red, symbolizing their alliance to Maduro and his administration. Both sides recognizing that the country is on the brink of a political crisis.
International attention is now on the protesters and Maduro’s government. His crackdown on anti-government protesters has brought criticism from the U.S. and the Venezuelan Catholic church. The Catholic bishops of Venezuela are urging for “respect and the protection of human rights,” as is the U.S. while this crisis unfolds.