Thursday, March 20, 2014

Unrest on the Other Side of the World - Venezuela's Civil Struggle

While we here at the Global Atlas have exhaustively covered the crisis in Ukraine over the last several months, thousands of miles away, Venezuela has been experiencing their own unrest for over a month at this point. Current reports put the death toll in the low 30s, including several students and national guardsmen. President Nicolas Maduro has, as he often does when things go awry in his country - blamed the West at times, and nebulously blamed "terrorists" at others. The government has made no concessions to the protestors, who gather at night most often to battle with police and military, and it appears that while things are not necessarily escalating, there is no real end in sight for the unrest.

Venezuela is no stranger to antigovernment sentiment. In 2002, a major coup was staged against President Hugo Chavez, who was actually removed from power for nearly two days and detained during that time. Chavez died just over a year ago, and left his longtime confidant and ally Maduro in charge, but the problems associated with Chavez and his administration have simply carried over to Maduro's administration. A borderline childish disassociation with the Western world and unrealistic socialist economic policies have done nothing to help the country, which has struggled financially for years and continues to experience some of the worst inflation in the world today. An almost authoritarian method of governing has sowed seeds of hatred among many Venezuelan citizens.

Now, Maduro is not backing down from his stance that the protests will not be tolerated. So far, several prominent opposition leaders have been arrested for "inciting violence", although these opaque charges are surely just propaganda which will likely further exacerbate tensions. Most recently, an opposition mayor in the town of San Cristobal where the protests allegedly started, was arrested. The arrests will likely continue until some semblance of order is restored.

Maduro has also deployed hundreds of extra military troops to the areas in and around the capital of Caracas in order to quell the unrest. Air Canada announced that because of the issues in the capital, they are suspending flights to and from Venezuela until further notice. For now, it looks like the government and its citizens are at a standstill. And while the rest of the world has its eyes on eastern Europe, it may remain as such for several more months.

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