Deadly Demonstrations Continue in Venezuela

Dalton Vogler

4/18/2013 1:10:00 PM - Dalton Vogler

Tensions in Venezuela continued to escalate yesterday as newly elected president Nicolas Maduro took over local broadcasting stations to further demonize his opposition. Despite previous promises to hold a recount prior to the election, Maduro has rejected multiple requests from his challenger, Henrique Capriles. Maduro, a former bus driver known for his steadfast loyalties to former President Hugo Chavez, has been viewed as a direct predecessor to the former dictator and a vigilant understudy of Chavez’s political philosophy.

Maduro won the election with 50.8% of the vote while his opponent, Capriles, garnered 49.0%. Current tallies give Maduro a 270,000 margin of victory, though votes still haven’t come from Venezuelans living in foreign countries—where they overwhelming vote against the socialist regime. Other world leaders have reacted to the news as expected, with communist-friendly countries already extending their well-wishes to the party, including China, Russia and Cuba. The U.S. State Department has refused to recognize the election results, claiming the opposition deserves a recount.

"The result as reported is extremely close," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “The opposition candidate and at least one member of the electoral council have called for an audit, which ... in our view, seems like an important and prudent step to take."

Though the U.S. would prefer the centrist-leaning Capriles, neither candidate will have an easy road to recovery. Venezuela’s inflation continues to spiral out of control along with food shortages, a crumbling infrastructure, and widespread blackouts. Chavez’s overabundant social programs are becoming impossible to balance, despite the countries large oil resources.

The election results have forced thousands of Venezuela citizens to streets, where they continue to struggle for a recount. The resulting violence has already claimed the lives of 8 protesters, with 61 injured. In a radio broadcast Wednesday, Maduro didn't shy away from using force, provoking protesters to fight him.

“The march to the center of Caracas will not be permitted,” Maduro said in his first broadcast, from a government-run health clinic. “I will use a hard hand against fascism and intolerance. I declare it. If they want to overthrow me, come and get me. Here I am, with the people and the armed forces.”

During the subsequent broadcast Maduro blasted the United States for financing “all the acts of violence in this country”, and held them accountable for the repeated blackouts that had plagued the country. His third and final transmission of the day came during a scheduled Capriles news conference that led to Maduros cutting off the opposing broadcast and reiterating his own message: “Decide who you are with, with the country and peace and the people, or are you going to go back to be with fascism?”

Maduro’s dystopian tactics didn’t end there when one father, William Bastardo, accused the government of changing the story of his sons passing. The countries Justice Ministry officials propagated that Mr. Bastardo had lost his son to Capriles-backed protesters, when in fact he had been protesting Maduro’s victory when shots were fired. Not only that, new reports surfaced that the Supreme Court of Venezuela made a ruling against a recount without either sides provocation, controversially interjecting themselves into the national debate.

Capriles has repeatedly stated his desire for peaceful protests—though the latest actions by Maduros could squash any hope for an immediate nonviolent resolution.

"If both sides have said that they want to count vote for vote, what is the rush? What are they hiding? Why do we have to accelerate the process?" Capriles said. "What they want is for the truth not to be known."