Venezuelan protesters have resorted to launching fecal bombs at the riot police as a way to counter the violent use of tear gas and paramilitary shock groups by government forces.
The opposition has led the civil society to take the streets for over a month to protest President Nicolas Maduro’s policies, which are deemed unconstitutional by anyone not in line with the government. The protests have been met with fierce repression, but even so, opposition politicians keep their pledge not to leave the streets until there are free and transparent elections.
Why protesters may not leave the streets
Dubbed by Venezuelan politicians and public figures as a “narco-dictatorship,” the government is showing its worst face as thousands of civilians are continuously taking the streets to protest against the Maduro regime.
Their argument is that Maduro has violated the constitution repeatedly during his four years in power. Apparently, he crossed the line after the government-backed Supreme Court tried to dissolve the National Assembly, whose representatives were elected with an 80 percent opposition majority in 2015.
After the protests heated the streets this year in April, the Maduro regime unilaterally announced a National Constituent Assembly, which would result in a complete overhaul of the 1999 constitution.
The issue is that the National Constituent Assembly proposed by Maduro would consist of 250 representatives chosen by the government, and 250 representatives chosen depending on each state’s jurisdiction, regardless of how numerous each district is. For example, if District A has 150,000 voters, it would get just one representative; if District B has only 1,000 voters, it would also get one representative.
Furthermore, calling for a National Constituent Assembly would require the decision to go through two referendum processes before the process to choose the constituents starts. Maduro’s proposal does not abide by these rules as he intends to jump straight to the electoral process.
This is seen as unconstitutional by the opposition, and as an example, it is using the 1999 National Constituent Assembly, as it was carried out by Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez following the right procedures.
Additionally, the assembly proposed by Maduro has been labeled as a “Communal National Constituent Assembly,” meaning that it would base its development on the government’s communal system. In other words, the Assembly would call upon government-selected constituents to create a “communist” constitution.
Violent repression against protesters
Now the civil society is exerting its right to protest freely and peacefully. The protests consist mostly in marches headed toward government institutions, such as the Supreme Court, the Public Ministry, and the National Electoral Council. Protesters are rarely able to get to their objective because they are cut off by riot police and the National Guard.
The National Guard, despite being supposed to safeguard the integrity of Venezuelans without caring for their political preference, have been vastly recorded in acts of violent repression. This has resulted in many deaths due to tear gas impacts on the chest and head, thousands of injured, and thousands of incarcerations.
Starting Monday, Venezuelan social networks began to share the idea of using a “puputov,” which is a jar filled with feces mixed with water, to throw them at riot police. The government classified their use as using a “biological weapon,” although that did not stop protesters from using their own waste as a weapon for contention.
While Venezuela is boiling, the country’s mainstream media is not able to speak broadly about the issue, as every communication service is tightly gripped by the government. Venezuelans rely on Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook to organize themselves and share photos and video about what is going on in the rest of the country.
The government employs its propaganda machine to the fullest, including Twitter bots to spam hashtags, and constant surveillance by the SEBIN, the state’s intelligence and counter-intelligence service.
— D'Santiago יְהוֹשֻׁע (@AmrJhs18) May 10, 2017
Radical protesters hide their faces with masks because the SEBIN is on the watch to chase and capture them. While politicians conduct the fight openly and plan activities for the following days, the civil society puts their energy and risk their lives to win back a country that was stolen from them 18 years ago.
While the government may argue that protesters mainly only come from the wealthiest parts of the capital, protests have already taken place in districts that supported Maduro until not too long ago. The sentiment for change is massive because there is a crippling lack of essential goods, medicines, and security, all paired with three-digit inflation due to the state’s currency control apparatus that has practically dissolved Venezuelan industry.
Opposition politicians assure that the Maduro regime is tumbling while the government acts as if everything is just as it’s supposed to be. As days pass, protests will get more violent, and government officials will be more likely to turn against those that have violated the constitution.