The Cable

Fifth Person Dies in Venezuela as Protests Spread

Protests spread to low income neighborhoods, perhaps signalling trouble ahead for Nicolás Maduro.

ven violent

A fifth person has been killed in the protests sweeping the streets of Caracas against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

The man, a 32-year-old, suffered gunshot wounds during clashes on Tuesday. On Thursday, he became the fifth casualty of the increasingly bloody regime crackdown on protesters pushing back against a government that recently tried to neuter its legislature and which has inflicted world-beating inflation and food and medicine shortages on its populace.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that it would overtake some of the functions of the legislature (perhaps motivated by a need to avoid a bond default Wednesday, which the government has managed, for now). This was met with widespread outrage, and people took to the streets. The Supreme Court then largely reversed the decision, and Maduro declared any scandal over.

But people did not stop protesting. Dozens have been arrested, and leading opposition figure Henrique Capriles has been barred from holding office for 15 years.

Huge numbers of Venezuelans took to the streets on Thursday, carrying the national flag upside down in a sign of protest against what many consider a “criminal regime.” “Nothing will stop us, nor get us off the streets,” tweeted María Corina Machado, a major opposition figure.

On Tuesday, a parade Maduro was presiding over turned violent, and the president was pelted with eggs by increasingly desperate people who do not have enough to eat. On Tuesday night, people in poorer areas — typically supporters of Maduro’s social spending programs — joined the protests, blocking off streets and lighting fires. Two teenagers were killed that night.

With the reversal of the Supreme Court order doing nothing to douse the resistance, the big questions now become: Why is Maduro so desperately clinging to power, and how long can he keep it up, at this rate of repression and public resistance?

Photo credit: FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images

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