Caracaras, Venezuela – People representing both the governmental and the opposition party took over the streets this Tuesday. They met in different parts of the city and had different agendas. Everything went south when police officers tried to suffocate opposition’s demonstrations by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at them.

A demonstrator is blocked by Bolivarian National police during an anti-government march to the headquarters of the national electoral body, CNE, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Opposition protesters were blocked from reaching the CNE as they demand the government allow it to pursue a recall referendum against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. AP Photo/Fernando Llano.

On April 27, 2016, opposition political parties activated the “referendum”, a constitutional mechanism in Venezuelan to remove President Nicolas Maduro Moros from power. As the constitution reads, to revoke a president, at least 1% of the registered voters have to sign on favor of the motion, a little less than 200.000 signatures. Before the end of the first day, there were almost 500.000 signatures, and people were still in line. This was the scenario for about a week and a half.

When the process was over, the opposition parties, most of which are united under a single banner called MUD (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática), delivered the signatures to the electoral power. The reaction of Venezuelan officials was uncooperative. In fact, the Venezuelan president said: “if they decide to activate a referendum, I’ll fight in the streets, and people will decide”. In addition, a prominent political figure in the “Chavismo”, Diosdado Cabello, said, “public employees who signed supporting the referendum shouldn’t be working with the government anymore”.

After a couple days, the electoral power (CNE) said it needed to validate the signatures by checking the fingerprints of every single signer. Some people thought that this statement was going to discourage the population, but instead, Venezuelan people were waiting for the instruction: When and where?.

“They don’t want to start the validation process because they (the government party) are afraid of the results,” said Henrique Capriles Radonsky, one of the opposition leaders, and the competitor in one of the most questionable elections ever held in Venezuela in 2013.

According to the constitution, the validation of the signatures was supposed to start around May 9. However, the president of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, refrained from making any statement on the subject days after the recollection.

Because of this, leaders from the MUD encouraged people to take over the streets in order to demand a date for the validation. Last week, there were at least three protests, and finally, the heads of the MUD decided to submit a formal complaint to the CNE’s headquarters on May 18, 2016. The leaders of the Venezuelan opposition marched with the people, and around 2 P.M., the conflict between protesters and police officers erupted. It is important to say that none of the political figures was involved in the confrontation.

Unreasonable violence?

Venezuela is going through difficult times; inflation killed the purchasing power of its citizens and the decline in oil prices made a huge impact on the country’s economy. To make things much more complicated for everybody, public services like water and electricity are very scarce, shortages of food and medicines are worst than the last month.

That is just a little fraction of the whole problem. Cases of corrupted officials are made public almost every day. Another big problem is how openly military officers endorse the governmental party, causing more tension among political agents.

Since last year, food scarcity became more and more common, and the famous lines to buy food started to appear all over the country. There are people that sleep on the street in order to buy, basic products, such as soap, flour, butter, and many other. But this year the situation got worse. Even people that wait in line for hours cannot find anything to eat, and we are not talking just about soap: milk, eggs, flour, and bread disappeared.

“Some people are hunting pigeons and cats in order to eat” said Ramon Muchacho, Major of Chacao.

Source: New York Times