Thousands of Venezuelans are taking part in continuous protests against the government of left-leaning president, Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela has been suffering constant currency devaluations, which translate into a deep economic crisis. Political unrest in the South American country continues with opposition demonstrators marching on the streets, demanding access to basic products including food and medicine. “Venezuela is in turmoil now” says Evelyn F. Galante, a Computer Engineering alumnus, who is originally from Venezuela.
Evelyn’s father still lives in Venezuela and shares with her his day-to-day struggle buying first necessity supplies. Many products are scarce; if they are available within the informal market they are more expensive.
Across Caracas, police have used teargas to try to disperse the crowds. So far, two people died in the April 26 protest, adding to the twenty-six people who have been killed since the current wave of protests began at the end of March. The wave of protests started on March 29 after the Supreme Court took over powers from the opposition-controlled legislative branch. Although the decision was quickly reversed, protesters were already on the streets in large numbers demanding a change of course. Thousands of Maduro loyalists are also holding rallies across Caracas to show their support.
At the center of protestor’s demands are calls for early elections and the release of opposition politicians under arrest including US-educated Leopoldo Lopez. The opposition raises serious accusations of Venezuela’s security forces using brutality to repress peaceful marches. Government loyalists accuse opposition leaders of encouraging violence, creating tensions and inciting political instability. Venezuela, an oil-rich nation, has been under Socialist control since populist caudillo Hugo Chavez assumed power in 1999 after winning a democratic election. Chavez became a household name in Latin American politics after leading a failed coup attempt in 1992 that resulted in his arrest and imprisonment.
While protests broke in Caracas, General Motors became the latest in a long list of multinationals to leave the Socialist government. Maduro’s government continues the anti-business legacy of his predecessor, Chavez. Security forces seized GM’s plant and took its vehicles. The long list of multinational companies that closed business in Venezuela includes Exxon Mobil, Kimberly-Clark and Clorox.