With the Venezuelan right-wing opposition in disarray after failing to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro through violent protest, and divided in the face of the upcoming October 15 regional elections, the frontline of the battle for Venezuela’s future has shifted outside its borders.
Travelling past El Calvario Park, just a few blocks from the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, we see a familiar image: an outline of late former president Hugo Chavez’s eyes, painted across several stairs.
This image can be seen all over Caracas. The government of President Nicholas Maduro has converted it into a recognisable trademark, much like the iconic image of Che Guevara that is splashed across T-shirts, flags and walls the world over.
“The US is doing the same thing as it did with the economic blockade on Cuba, to try and suffocate the Venezuelan economy” explained Williams Camacaro, a long-time Venezuelan grassroots activist based in New York.
Speaking to Green Left Weekly in Caracas, Camacaro said “The sanctions will cause a lot of difficulties for Venezuela”, but “the reality is that a lot of time has passed since [the blockade was first imposed on Cuba]. Many things have changed.”
Flying into Caracas, the plane was full of middle class Venezuelans travelling home from Miami. On board, no one spoke to the passenger next to them for fear of finding out they were on the opposite side of the political divide.
In highly polarised Venezuela, these things are best left unsaid.
A few days after arriving in Venezuela, we drive past La Carlota military base in the east of Caracas, which was a regular site for the violent street protests commonly known here as guarimbas.
The highway we were travelling on was often blockaded by protesters — guarimberos — who made up the backbone of the self-dubbed “La Resistencia”. They received glowing praise in the international media during the wave of protests that rocked the country from April to July.
Venezuelans were taken by surprise with the announcement that opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez would serve out his jail term under house arrest. The move is an unprecedented concession that seeks to calm the waters in the lead up to the July 30 Constituent Assembly elections.
But the conflict in the country is showing it has multiple faces. On July 10, a day after the official election campaign began, a candidate was assassinated in the middle of a campaign event.
One National Guardsperson was killed and three people set on fire across Venezuela as violent anti-government protests continue.
In Aragua, National Guard Sergeant Ronny Alberto Parra Araujo died on June 27 of wounds sustained during what the Public Prosecution (MP) described as an “irregular situation” the day before.
Journalist Ramon Camacho has reported that Parra was shot while attempting to prevent looting at the Walio Supermarket in Maracay on the evening on June 26.
The right-wing opposition has put its foot down on the accelerator, it is moving all of its pieces at once, and aims to shatter the balance of forces through a coup. It has made it clear: the opposition has June and July to achieve its objective.
It has declared that, backed by article 350 of the constitution, it does not recognise the government. Nor does it recognise the call for a National Constituent Assembly and it is organising to impede the elections for the assembly going ahead on July 30.
A maternity hospital in Venezuela's Miranda state was attacked on May 17 as the death count in ongoing violent anti-government protests rose to 53.
The attack comes as violent opposition protests demanding early presidential elections enter their seventh week, with new deaths being reported as opposition supporters clash with authorities, attack public institutions and state security personnel, and blockade roads nationwide.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro officially called for a national Constituent Assembly to be convened during a May Day march in Caracas on May 1. The call is a bid to bring an end to the political crisis between the national government and the opposition-held parliament.
Speaking to the hundreds of thousands of government supporters who took to the streets for International Workers’ Day, Maduro said he would invoke article 347 of the constitution to trigger the assembly, which will be responsible for re-drafting the 1999 Constitution.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered on April 1 to send rescuers and other disaster relief experts to Colombia to help victims of a mudslide that has killed at least 154 people.
The mudslide, which overtook the small city of Mocoa in southern Colombia, left about 400 people injured and 220 missing. Mocoa was left in almost total ruin, as buildings, trees and infrastructure were toppled by muddy water and debris.
“We’re brotherly people who are there to be together and show respect for one another in trying times,” Maduro said.
Letter sent by Julian Assange to the XV Encounter of the Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defence of Humanity, held in Caracas, Venezuela over March 6-7, 2017.