Student-organized protests against the Nicolás Maduro Administration turned violent yesterday when pro-government groups began shooting into the crowd in Caracas.
Several thousand students and protesters took to the street with more protests cropping up throughout the country as the day went on. Anti-government groups denounced the administration for current economic and widespread crime, demanding the constitutional removal of President Maduro. At the same time, pro-government groups set to the streets to show their support of the Venezuelan socialist government. Amongst gun shots, fire and chaos, at least three people were killed, including 24 year old Bassil da Costa, a student protester, and Juan Montoya, a government supporter. Many more were injured and detained as the demonstrations escalated.
Leaders from both sides of the protests riled up street crowds, including former mayor and opposition supporter Leopoldo Lopez, who addressed a group of nearly 10,000 people in Caracas’ Plaza Venezuela. “All of these problems–shortages, inflation, insecurity, the lack of opportunities–have a single culprit: the government” said Lopez. The Venezuelan government, however, has retaliated, calling the protest groups “Nazi-fascists” and assuring supporters that they won’t back down to attempts to destabilize the government. Diosdado Cabello, the president of the national assembly, threatened over state television that the murderers of comrade Montoya would pay.
Protests against the Maduro Administration have been occurring in smaller numbers since he took over the presidency in April 2013, after the death of former populist leader Hugo Chávez. Wednesday’s protest occurred on Youth Day, a commemoration of student participants in the fight against colonial power in the nineteenth century.