Venezuelans Rise Up

I am sure that apologists for Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro will continue to try to ignore the protests against authoritarianism, political repression, and garden variety tyranny in Venezuela, but everyone else is paying very close attention:

Protests against President Nicolás Maduro’s government escalated Thursday, with thousands of demonstrators burning tires and cars and security forces fighting back to gain control of the streets in the capital and in other cities.

At least five people, four protesting the government, have died since protests by university students over high crime and a crumbling economy turned violent last week. Dozens of others have been injured or jailed, including opposition leader Leopoldo López, a former mayor whom the government has accused of instigating the violence.

Leonardo Velasco, 25 years old, said dozens of national guardsmen and other armed supporters of the government swept down on demonstrators in a protest in which he participated on Thursday. “I heard a bunch of shots and hit the ground.” Mr. Velasco said he and other demonstrators fought back with Molotov cocktails, as tear gas spread and people ran in different directions. “I was half blind, stumbling and running,” he said.

One protester in Caracas was shot by what appeared to be members of the National Guard, according to a video posted on several Venezuelan media sites. The incident couldn’t be independently verified. The protester remained in critical condition on Friday, according to El Nacional newspaper.

Other videos online showed dozens of armed men on motorcycles entering areas held by protesters during the night, amid sounds of gunfire and fireworks.

“The government came out to kill people, to try to shut up people with lead,” Henrique Capriles, a leading opposition figure, said in a news conference on Thursday. Calls seeking comment over the past week to government officials haven’t been returned.

No one can claim that the thuggish nature of the Venezuelan dictatorship has not been revealed for all to see. Predictably, the government is trying to crack down by censoring Internet services and the international media (fortunately, this latter effort appears to have failed for the moment, at least as far as CNN is concerned). I guess this is the kind of thing that happens when an entire government fails to peacefully and cogently rebut its critics. This story nicely points out why Venezuelans are fed up with the current regime:

Saturday’s competing mass rallies in the capital laid bare a chasm between those who support Maduro and those who oppose him, in an oil-rich country that despite having the world’s largest proven reserves is grappling with basic goods shortages, rampant inflation and violent crime.

[. . .]

“I can’t stand the situation. It’s not fair that we’re in one of the richest countries in the world and still can’t get food,” 24-year-old student Joel Moreno told AFP.