As the world is focused on a potential civil war against a democratically elected government in the Ukraine, Venezuela, another democratically elected government, is facing the prospect of a bloody conflict as two opposing protest groups may converge in the center of Caracas today.
Venezuela's government labels protesters "fascists"
Up against the largest anti-government protests in close to one year in power, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, has labeled protesters as “fascists,” outlawed and “threatened violence” against anti-government protesters if they entered the municipality of Libertador, in downtown Caracus. This comes as pro-government forces are taking to the street and may meet with anti-government protesters, according to a report by the Cato Institute.
Criminal charges against political leader
The dueling protests come as the Venezuelan government appears prepared to move forward with the prosecution of a leading opposition figure on charges of arson, terrorism and murder related to the anti government protests.
The charges against Leopoldo Lopez, the organizer of protests that are demanding better security, end to food shortages and advocate freedom of speech, "smack of a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent in the country," Amnesty International said in a statement. Lopez is expected to appear in court Wednesday after turning himself in to security forces Tuesday after leading a march. Other Human rights groups have warned about the danger of turning the protests into a persecution of political opponents. Human Rights Watch, for its part, warned that Venezuela must avoid "scapegoating" political opponents.
Government hard line anticipated
Indicating the government is prepared to take a hard line with the protestors, Maduro, who replaced Hugo Chavez as president, said. "The only way to fight fascism in a society is like when you have a very bad infection ... you need to take penicillin, or rather the strongest antibiotic, and undergo treatment. Fascism is an infection in Venezuela and in the world. And the only treatment that exists is justice."
Maduro: "Yankee go home"
Social and economic issues have sparked Venezuela’s protests, but the government has pointed the finger at the U.S., accusing it of orchestrating demonstrations to destabilize the ruling government. On Monday, Maduro’s government ordered three U.S. diplomats to leave the country in 48 hours, claiming they conspiring to bring down the government. At a pro-government rally Tuesday, Maduro yelled, "Yankee, go home" to a cheering red-clad crowd.