NPR reports that the Venezuelan government has called in the military in response to the violence there, raising fears of civil war. The violence there is getting worse as opposition leaders are jailed, massive human rights violations are alleged, and the situation is the worst since the late President Chavez took power.
El Nuevo Herald, meanwhile, reports that Henrique Capriles, an opposition leader, accused the government of Nicolas Maduro of fomenting unrest.Naturally, both sides are quick to blame the other for the escalating violence. The government says the opposition is simply a bunch of "fascists" who are trying to engineer a coup, aided and abetted by the US. There is a lot of suspicion of the US, given that they engineered coups in Latin America and Iran during the Cold War in the name of "stopping communism."
"The government is doing everything possible to emerge from this crisis stronger," Capriles is quoted as saying. "They're saying a group of fascists is trying to burn down the country in order to cover up the great problems we're currently living."
Over the past few days, Maduro, who was Hugo Chávez's right hand man, has accused the United States and its allies of trying to destabilize the country.
Caracas Chronicles, an English-language blog that leans toward the opposition, writes that the protests started in San Cristobal, after government forces tamped down a student protest using a heavy hand.
The Caracas Chronicles alleges the following human rights abuses by the Venezuelan government:
•The Media Blackout - From yanking a Colombian cable news channel off the air to taking an entire city offline, the government has made controlling the flow of information about the crisis a priority. This comes on the heels of the looming threat to newspapers all over the country, which we have documented extensively. President Maduro has already announced they will pull the plug on CNN En Español, an important source of independent information. Now their journos’ official credentials have been revoked. All told, the past two weeks have been dreadful for the right of Venezuelans to be informed. The result? Tons of rumors, tons of disinformation, tons of uncertainty.Amnesty International has an entire section on the violence and alleges that the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is an attempt to silence critics.
•Paramilitaries: Let’s call a spade a spade: colectivos are paramilitaries. It’s silly that chavistas are somehow trying to minimize the role of these government-sponsored groups that now roam freely in the streets of Venezuela, heavily armed, accountable to God-only-knows whom. They have been repeatedly lionized by the government. They are christened by Ministers as the main line of defense of the Revolution. They talk to the foreign press and gleefully display their weapons and their fire power. Chavista governors give them orders via Twitter. And numerous eyewitnesses tell stories of violence. True – they don’t always shoot live ammo. Sometimes their role is simply to intimidate. Regardless, they are real, and they are not going anywhere.
•Human Rights Abuses - From the jailing of Leopoldo López to the alleged torture of student demonstrators, it seems clear that Venezuela crossed a rubicon in the past few days. This has been a PR disaster for the government, with everyone from Amnesty International to Human Rights Watch to (gulp) Madonna weighing in. I don’t know if they care or not, but Maduro’s cast in international public opinion seems set for now. He is an abusive, mustachoed thug. Any lingering claim to the moral high-ground or to hemispheric leadership that the revolution may once have held on to died this month.
Al-Jazeera reports that Venezuela has turned certain areas of the country into free fire zones.
As protesters clashed once again with Venezuelan security forces in the “war zone” of western Tachira province, tensions were high Friday in Valencia, the Venezuelan city where a funeral was scheduled for a local beauty queen killed by a bullet this week while participating in a protest.Independent sources have said it was plausible that the government is blacking out Internet service throughout the country in an effort to silence dissent. From the Al-Jazeera story:
Internet connectivity was gradually restored to San Cristobal on Friday morning after an outage of more than 30 hours that also affected smartphones.The BBC reports that the government has revoked the visas of CNN journalists. They have also taken other news sites off the air.
Activists say the government has obstructed Internet access around the country over the past few weeks.
U.S.-based company Renesys, a top analyzer of global Internet traffic, confirmed that Venezuela was experiencing website blocking and service degradation across the country, but said it could not determine if CANTV, which handles about 90 percent of the country’s traffic, was intentionally decreasing bandwidth.
"I certainly don't know from our data if it is deliberate, although given the context, it seems plausible," Renesys researcher Doug Madory told The Associated Press.
President Nicolas Maduro had vowed to expel CNN unless it "rectified" its coverage of recent opposition marches.
Last week, the government removed Colombian TV news channel NTN24 from channels offered by Venezuelan cable operators.
On Thursday, during a live broadcast, Mr Maduro threatened to "take action" against CNN unless it ceased what he described as "hostile coverage" of events in Venezuela.Despite the government's angry denials, the fact that they have deployed the military and have created free fire zones strongly increases the likelihood of a civil war. We ourselves fought a civil war when the secession of the South created an existential threat to this country. If the opposition poses an existential threat to Venezuela, then let the government come public with hard evidence against the opposition that they are committing some form of high treason against the country.
"Enough war propaganda, I won't accept war propaganda against Venezuela. If they don't rectify themselves, out of Venezuela, CNN, out," he said.
"They want to say to the world that there's a civil war in Venezuela."
France24 quotes residents on the ground in one city as describing it as a "war zone."
In the city of San Cristobal, which some residents are describing as a “war zone,” many businesses remained closed as students and police faced off again. The government says it is taking “special measures” to restore order in Tachira.But if the government and the opposition are serious about working for the people that they claim to be fighting for, then let them sit down and resolve this conflict diplomatically like Ukraine is doing. The alternative will be the civil war that Venezuela's government says is not going to happen
“This is not a militarisation,” Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said on state TV from San Cristobal.
“We are here to work for the great majority of people in Tachira. ... Before we have dialogue, we must have order.” Maduro says he will not let his rivals turn Tachira into “a Benghazi,” referring to the violence-wracked Libyan city where the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi was waged.