On Monday, 2-17-2014, three US diplomats were expelled, following expulsion of three diplomats in October on charges of stirring up labor protests, and two were also expelled earlier in 2013 on the day former President Chavez died of cancer. The US diplomats are accused of recruiting students to lead protests in the country’s recent unrest.
The U.S. State Department called the allegations “baseless and false,” adding that Washington supported free expression and peaceful assembly in Venezuela and around the world.
Demonstrations began when students and other opposition to current President Maduro called for his ousting, citing high inflation, violent crime and the shortages of many staples. An arrest warrant has been issued for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has pledged to lead a march in the capital Caracas on Tuesday, 2-18.
Since the demonstrations began, the reporters’ trade union said 11 journalists have been arrested, some of whom were beaten and had their equipment stolen while covering the unrest. Additionally, Reuters reports,”Opposition activists say some detained student demonstrators have been tortured, while videos and photos circulating online show uniformed men firing on protesters. Maduro insists police have been restrained in the face of provocation and attacks.”
The government has blocked Twitter, attempted to block other social media outlets, and controls all the television and broadcasting facilities within Venezuela.
Although it remains to be seen if Venezuelans in general will join the students as their demonstrations spread to other cities in Venezuela, it is highly unlikely Maduro will acquiesce to any of the demands, nor will he relinquish “even a millimeter” of his power.
Did you notice the price of gas rose? Don’t look at the Middle East this time – look south!