Featured image: AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos
For the last year and a half, Venezuela has been in a state of desperation, a state of conflict due to the overwhelming number of protests, the poor economic conditions, and the shortages that have stemmed from the economy. These, in turn, have produced a country that sets itself apart among the western hemisphere, a country that is slowly deteriorating within itself. With no change, with no reform, the state will continue to live in a harmful environment of continued protest and violence.
The protests began in early February in the western states of Tachira and Merida, where students were demanding increased security following a rape incident on campus. The protestors highlighted the deteriorating security under President Nicholas Maduro, and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez. This comes to no surprise as Venezuela has the second highest homicide rate in the world, with crime being rife in urban areas. The social upheave soon turned violent, triggering the arrest of students and in turn demonstrations in Caracas following their release. Since then, there have been frequent demonstrations all throughout Venezuela, demonstrations varying in size from small gatherings to large rallies. In contrast to the security issues being a topic of protest, recent events have illuminated the economic and political conflicts that the country faces.
Apart from the initial peaceful demonstrations observed in early 2014, the manner of protests in various urban centers has shifted to violent and harmful events. Elements in some protests include burning trash, the creation of barricades, and violent clash between the opposition and state authorities. Along with this, militant groups known as “colectivos” have attacked protestors and opposition TV staff, sent death threats to journalists, and have utilized weapons such as tear gas to send a message. The “colectivos” help assist the government during protests, a factor that President Maduro has looked upon as beneficial and has even sent thanks to. Human Rights Watch even reported that government forces “repeatedly allowed” colectivos “to attack protesters, journalists, students, or people they believed to be opponents of the government with security forces just meters away”. Torture, along with all the other forms of violence being displayed in protest, has also been reported to being used by government authorities upon protestors. Overall, there has been an incredible amount of violence that has stemmed from what was peaceful protest among students on campus to an intra-national crisis involving constant deaths and harm to both sides of the movement.
Shifting to the economic cohesion of Venezuela, the country is suffering from severely high inflation rates. In data provided by the CIA, Venezuela had the highest inflation rate (63.0%) in the world for 2014. The significant rate of inflation is due to partly by the Venezuelan government’s strict price control, which have in turn led to shortages of many items, from condoms to toilet paper to basic foodstuffs. The economic crises come together in fueling greater protests, hence expanded violence within the country.
Looking to the future, unless the protests spread to wider sectors of the country, there will be no change in the degree of violence, protest, and economic conflict ravaging the state.