At least three people – including two student protesters – were reportedly shot dead and 23 injured after pro and anti-government marches were simultaneously carried out in the capital city Caracas. The violence escalated to the worst unrest in Venezuela since the protests against President Nicolas Maduro's election in April 2013.
Two opposition leaders, Maria Corina Machado and Leopoldo Lopez, urged Venezuelans to take to the streets earlier this month against Maduro.
Several students also took part in the protests over the weekend with posters and slogans denouncing rampant crime, political corruption and inflation.
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How Long Has This Been Happening?
Demonstrations have been going on for two weeks. The first reports emerged on Saturday when Maduro said four people had been held following an anti-government protest the day before.
Initially, there were sporadic demonstrations, drawing a small number of protesters. However, opposition campaigners joined students who were rallying for the release of colleagues arrested by the police earlier this week on Venezuelan Youth Day.
The protests come almost a year after 58-year-old Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, died on March 5th, 2013, after losing a two-year batter with cancer. He ruled Venezuela from 1999 until his death, which marked the end of Latin America's most remarkable populist rule. The open critic of the United States was deeply mourned by his people.
Maduro who is generally considered to be Chavez’s replica in terms of his socialist policies assumed the powers and responsibilities of the President after a special election was held in April.
April 15, 2013 Unrest – Three days before Maduro’s assuming office:
Riots erupted in Venezuela as opposition disputed Nicolás Maduro's victory against Henrique Capriles, who called for a recount and protests.
At least 7 deaths and 61 injuries were reported throughout the country after the elections.
November 23, 2013 Protests:
Thousands of opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro took to the streets to express outrage over the government intimidation, internal power struggles and virtually no access to televised media.
There was no violence reported and the opposition was able to gather a mere 5,000 protesters.
The Venezuelan Government:
After the killings during protests this week, Maduro blamed "small right-wing fascist groups” which he said infiltrated the opposition demonstration.
"We come to denounce in Venezuela the sprouting of a Nazi-fascist current which wants to bring violence and chaos to our country, but today the revolutionary youth in the street are saying they will not allow this. Here there is going to be peace,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said.
The President also said one of his supporters was among the three who died.
The Opposition’s Stance:
Leopoldo Lopez, one of the opposition leaders, who called on his supporters to take to the streets earlier this month, said the government planned the bloodshed to try and discredit his peaceful movement.
"The government is playing the violence card, and not for the first time," Lopez told Reuters TV after the shootings.
Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado said two student protesters were killed during Wednesday's demonstration in Caracas against President Nicolas Maduro's government.
"Here we have two Venezuelans killed for raising their voices," she reportedly told a Colombian TV channel.