Venezuelan protests escalate
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his government have been the target of near-daily protests for six weeks. The situation could intensify after the arrest of more opposition leaders.
Politicians behind bars
In Venezuela, security forces and demonstrators have clashed again. The riots intensified after the police arrested two opposition mayors earlier in the week. The government has now arrested several opposition politicians.
Charges of 'rebellion'
On Friday (21.03.2014), police arrested Daniel Ceballos, the mayor of San Cristobal, on charges of rebellion. Enzo Scarano, the mayor of San Diego, has been sentenced with ten months in prison for allegedly not complying with a court order to remove demonstrators' barriers.
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has been in prison for weeks. Venezuelan authorities accused him of organizing anti-government protests and inciting violence during those protests. After his arrest on 18 February, tens of thousands took to the streets in protest.
Worst in a decade
Riots in Venezuela look set to go on for quite some time. In the capital, Caracas, thousands marched again this weekend to demand the release of the arrested opposition members. The protests have turned into the most serious riots Venezuela has seen in ten years.
The protests are led by students and members of the middle class. They're targeting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his socialist government. Maduro has been in office since his predecessor, long-time President Hugo Chavez, died last year. The opposition accuses the government of failing to fix the dire economic situation, amongst other things.
Big shoes to fill
Late President Hugo Chavez used his charisma and his oil billions to gain the support of Venezuelans. After his death, election pollsters saw only a small margin for his successor Maduro over challenger Henrique Capriles. Capriles' supporters spoke of election fraud.
It's the economy
The opposition is protesting against soaring crime, corruption and the dire economic situation which the government has thus far failed to resolve. A shortage of food and goods in Venezuela triggered the first mass protests. One in five products is in short supply, like toilet paper, for example.
Growing number of victims
Since February, more than 30 have been killed on both sides as a result of demonstrations and the ensuing riots. Venezuela's national guard has been firing tear gas and live ammunition at demonstrators. Protestors resort to stones and the burning of cars.
An attempted rape
The tense situation in Venezuela escalated on February 6th. The attempted rape of a student triggered mass protests by students. Six days later, clashes in big cities led to the first fatalities. Both opposition members and government supporters lost their lives.
The situation has also impacted foreign relations. President Maduro has suspended relations with Panama, criticizing Panama's initiative to call a special meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) on the riots in Venezuela. Madura has accused the US of plans to overthrow his government and expelled three US diplomats - among them, Charge d’Affaires Kelly Keiderling (pictured).
Apart from mass protests and worsening foreign ties, the economic situation in Venezuela has caused disruptions in air traffic. Air Canada was the first airline to suspend flights to Venezuela as a reaction to billions in unpaid bills. President Maduro's reaction came as a threat: "Those who leave now won't come back for as long as we are the government."
Solidarity in Germany
Protests in Venezuela have triggered solidarity demonstrations elsewhere. In Germany and across the rest of Europe, demonstrators have shown support for Venezuelans and the social, political and economic deficits they face. In Nuremberg in southern Germany, demonstrators lit candles for the victims of violence in Venezuela.