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Rifts Deepen Between Pro- and Anti-Government Factions in Venezuela

Posted on Feb 23, 2014

  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Brazil in 2010. Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr (CC-BY)

As clashes between government forces and protesters in Venezuela continued through the weekend, civilians took sides in rival marches held Saturday, each pointing to the other as the catalyst of the country’s recent wave of unrest.

Last week’s events in Ukraine clearly cast a long shadow, in the form of a rallying cry from the opposition and a strong disavowal of any resemblance between the two nations’ situations from Venezuela’s first lady, as reported Sunday:

Cilia Flores, Venezuela’s first lady, also appears determined to stop the unrest, stating on Saturday: “Venezuela is not Ukraine.”

Some observers agree with her that Caracas’ Plaza Altamira is not Kiev’s Maidan Square because the intensity of the Venezuelan protests is not yet comparable with those there, nor with the demonstrations about a decade ago against Mr Chávez.

“Many think there will be a contagion [with Ukraine], but we are far from there,” says Ángel Álvarez, a professor of political science at the Andres Bello University in Caracas.
The government is charging the fiery opposition leader Leopoldo López, who surrendered to authorities last week, with arson and conspiracy.

“Fascist” has emerged as another key term in the conflict. Maduro has lobbed the word at his antagonists, and his underlings have clearly gotten the memo (via FT):

Reportedly, the government has sent the military to the state of Táchira, an opposition stronghold bordering Colombia, where Mr Maduro faces the stiffest resistance. Rafael Ramírez, the powerful oil minister, warned on Friday that he may cut off deliveries of fuel to areas hit by a “fascist siege”.

Opposition sources claim the pro-government faction is the aggressor and that paramilitary troops have incited attacks around the country. By Al-Jazeera English’s count, at least eight people have died and more than 100 have been injured over the last 10 days.

—Posted by Kasia Anderson

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