Violence intensifies in Venezuela

  • Members of a pro-government “colectivo,” or “collective,” march in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, on  Feb. 20, 2014.
  • A man sets a fire to a barricade during a protest against the Venezuelan government in Caracas, Venezuela on Feb. 20, 2014.
  • Supporters of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez riot against police during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas on Feb. 19, 2014.
  • People inside their home wave to members of a pro-government “colectivo,” or “collective,” marching through downtown Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 20, 2014.
  • Students hide in a building during an anti-government demonstration, in Caracas on Feb. 19, 2014.
  • A demonstrator raises his arms toward the Bolivarian National Police (BNP) firing tear gas and a water canon in the Altamira neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 19, 2014.
  • Arminda Alvarado, 85, a supporter of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, stands outside the Palace of Justice to show solidarity, in Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 19, 2014.
  • A demonstrator wearing a Venezuelan flag stands on top of the median during an opposition protest blocking the highway outside La Carlota airport in Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 18, 2014.
  • Students shout slogans against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro during a march to the Venezuelan Telecommunications Regulator Office, or CONATEL, in Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 17, 2014.
  • An opposition demonstrator shouts for the National Bolivarian Police (BNP) to not fire tear gas as a member of the force, right, gestures after his superior ordered them to hold their fire, during clashes in Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 15, 2014.
  • A demonstrator, right, kicks back a teargas canister fired by the Bolivarian National Police during an opposition protest in Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 15, 2014.


Venezuela’s capital is engulfed in the biggest protests the country has seen since its longtime leader, Hugo Chávez, died in March of last year.

Protestors are calling for the resignation of President Nicolás Maduro, who was narrowly elected after Chávez’s death, amid frustrations about the country’s high crime rate, high inflation, and the shortage of basic goods.

Maduro ordered the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats on Sunday, arguing they were inciting violence among student protesters. On Tuesday, opposition leader and U.S.-educated economist Leopoldo Lopez surrendered to authorities after Maduro ordered his arrest on charges that Lopez staged a coup to overthrow the government. Prosecutors dropped the most serious charges of murder and terrorism Thursday, but charged Lopez with arson and conspiracy.

Six people have died in week-long clashes between protesters and security forces, with dozens injured and scores arrested. Maduro’s attempts to crack down caused the violence to intensify toward the end of the week.

President Obama called the claims against the American diplomats “false accusations” and urged Maduro’s government to release the political prisoners and turn to diplomacy during remarks on Wednesday in Mexico.