In the Venezuelan town of Urachiche, long a bastion of support for President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party, a radio station broadcast messages in September calling for a protest over decaying public services and chronic fuel shortages.
By Yahoo News – Keren Torres and Brian Ellsworth
Oct 12, 2020
The man driving the rally was an activist named Edito Hidalgo of the Tupamaro party, which is closely allied with Maduro – a stark contrast from typical Venezuelan street agitators who are fiercely anti-government.
“Our people have the right to live. We want efficiency in public services,” Hidalgo said at the municipal headquarters of the town of 20,000 during a Sept. 22 march, flanked by dozens of others demanding improved access to water, electricity and fuel.
The march ended peacefully. But by the next day, nearby towns in the agricultural state of Yaracuy were convulsed with protests that troops broke up with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Within a week, hundreds of similar protests broke out across the South American nation, from the western Zulia state, which has been prone to black outs, to the isolated Caribbean shores of Sucre in the east, before a deployment of troops halted the demonstrations.
The unrest revealed how Venezuela’s agricultural heartland remains a tinder box for social unrest and how even Socialist Party stalwarts are losing patience with the privations caused by a crippling six-year economic crisis that has been accelerated by a six-month coronavirus quarantine.
In interviews with a dozen people in Urachiche and the nearby towns of Yaritagua and Chivacoa, residents described anger and weariness at the struggles of making do without basic services.
Nearly all asked not to be identified, citing possible reprisals and intimidation by security forces.
During a visit to four cities in Yaracuy in early October, protests had died down. Troops and military vehicles remained stationed on the streets.
Hidalgo, in a telephone interview, said the march he led was unrelated to the demonstrations that followed, and said citizens are angry at the lack of basic services and difficulty obtaining food.
“Our march was totally peaceful,” he said. “The people are walking around with their eyes sunken because they can’t get any protein.”
Venezuela’s information ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
Socialist Party officials say the problems with public services are the result of U.S. sanctions meant to force Maduro from office, and frequently accuse opposition leaders of orchestrating street violence.