What Is Happening In Venezuela? 6 Facts To Know About The Bloody Protests Against Nicolás Maduro

Venezuelan Protests
Opposition demonstrators throw stones at police during a protest against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas. Reuters

1. What are people protesting? Venezuela has been in a downward spiral in recent years and its citizens are rallying to demand an improvement in the country's situation. Inflation has soared 56.3 percent over the past 12 months. In its 2013 annual Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency.org ranked Venezuela as 160 out of 175, making it one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Crime in the country has also risen drastically: one person is killed every twenty minutes in Venezuela.

2. When Did It Start? The first ptotests were staged on February 12, 2014 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Victoria, an important battle during Venezuela's War of Independence in which students acted as armed militia to protect the city of Victoria against Spanish troops in 1814. It is also known as Venezuela's Youth Day. Protests continued in the days following, with a second large, city-wide protest organized on Saturday, February 15.

3. Who organized it? The protest was led by the leaders of the Venezuelan opposition María Corina Machado and Leopoldo López, however it has been students who have primarily organized the demonstrations. The Federation of University Centers (FCU) from the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) has been the main driving force, however, they have been joined by numerous other schools and university groups around the country. 

4. It's gotten deadly. The protests have gotten increasingly violent: a number of people have been injured in clashes with police and vigilante groups. One man was shot dead by police last Wednesday, while three more people have been reported killed following gunfire on Saturday. Police have also used tear gas and water cannons on protesters.  

5. A lot of people are getting arrested. 100 people have been arrested so far, most of them students. The high number of arrests has in turn triggered further protests as students demand the release of their colleagues. So far 25 people have been released, however, an arrest warrant has been issued for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

6. The world is watching. Several world leaders have called for an end to the violent protests. US Secretary of State John Kerry released the following statement: "We join the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and others in condemning this senseless violence. We call on the Venezuelan government to provide the political space necessary for meaningful dialogue with the Venezuelan people and to release detained protestors. We urge all parties to work to restore calm and refrain from violence."

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