Section: Global Kenyon

Mass demonstrations shake Venezuela

Global Kenyon is the Collegian’s recurring international news feature. In order to tie these events back to campus, insights and analysis from members of the Kenyon community are included. Because these pieces will be short, we hope they will inspire readers to conduct their own research about global affairs.

Early in the morning of April 30, Juan Guaidó, President of the National Assembly of Venezuela and de facto leader of the country’s opposition movement, called for people to rise up against Nicolás Maduro’s regime. Members of the country’s armed forces stood beside Guaidó, including Leopoldo López ’93, a prominent figure in the opposition movement who had previously been held under house arrest.

With both Guaidó and Maduro calling for their supporters to take to the streets, political tensions have reached a new level, one that the country has not felt since 2002, according to Celso Villegas, Assistant Professor of Sociology.

Protestors supporting the opposition attempted to gather in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, where they have been met by police officers and members of the country’s national guard. According to the New York Times, the protestors’ strongest presence remains in Chacao, an affluent eastern suburb of Caracas and notable anti-Maduro stronghold.

Despite the emergence of these protestors and his appearance alongside members of the Venezuelan military, there’s a sense that the “rebellion” Guaidó called for on Tuesday did not immediately take the form he expected.

“This is something that I can’t get a sense of just yet, but I think the expectation was that there were going to be more people by now,” Villegas said.

Even so, Guaidó called on Wednesday for protests to continue. “There’s no turning back,” he said.

“I think [the opposition] may be imagining that support will build as the story gets out and as they can show that there are new military defections, but this is something where I think they’re banking on a snowball process over the next several days,” Villegas said.

As for López, who has been a political prisoner since 2014 and under house arrest since 2017, his freedom carries symbolic significance for those opposed to the regime, and it is one of many events the opposition is using to rally support.

Meanwhile, downtown Caracas saw massive pro-government demonstrations on Wednesday after the high-level military defections hoped for by many regime critics did not happen.

“It should not be discounted that Maduro has support — he has organized support,” Villegas said. “He has at least the tentative loyalty of the military.”

Villegas emphasized that the current situation is highly uncertain: It is difficult to assess both Maduro’s and Guaidó’s assertions of strength. Having studied similar mass demonstrations in Venezuela in 2002 and the Philippines in 1986, he said the propensity for this kind of situation to result in a peaceful resolution mainly depends on its duration.

“I think that the longer it goes, it’s less likely there will be a peaceful exit and the longer it goes, I think the chances of the [anti-Maduro] protests succeeding are going to decline,” Villegas said.

An earlier version of this article refers to the situation in Venezuela as a coup, which is inaccurate given that the military is still sided with the Maduro regime. The Collegian regrets this error. 


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