Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has to contend with numerous protests against his regime a day, a miserable and oppressed populace and nightly videos of his national guard assaulting protesters uploaded to social media. He’s hoping a carnival will make up for it.
February 27th is a national holiday in Chavista Venezuela, the anniversary of the “Caracazo,” a far-left violent uprising against (classically, not American) liberal government in 1989. According to Spanish newspaper ABC, Maduro plans to begin festivities early to distract from the many protests scheduled for the upcoming week, giving Venezuelans the 27th and 28th of February as holidays off in order to provide a six-day weekend (Monday and Tuesday are also national holidays).
Maduro insisted that the opposition “fascists” were out to ruin the holiday “for our children” in a speech this week, in which he claimed the opposition wanted the holidays to be canceled because many mayors have said they are mourning the dead protesters and not participating in celebrations. “The fight here is happiness versus bitterness, hate versus love, violence versus peace, carnival versus fascism,” he told the audience. “The carnival is happening all the way!” He also provided a salsa dancing demonstration.
In anticipation of the holiday, Maduro also called for a “National Conference for Peace” that would occur simultaneously with opposition protests on Wednesday. The conference would involve, according to the leader, “all the social, economic, political, and religious sectors,” and also discussions on “respect for the Constitution” and “support for the Commission of Truth.” The Commission of Truth is a new agency in the government that would be responsible for holding accountable those responsible for the violence during these protests, though most likely will arrest even more opposition leaders instead of the violent Chavistas responsible.
The carnival idea is not going to well in many sectors of the nation. Opposition party mayors are refusing to participate, arguing that “there is nothing to celebrate” since their party leader, Leopoldo López, was arrested for exercising his right of assembly.
This is not the first time that the Venezuelan leader uses holidays to distract the population for political turmoil. During the peak economic shortages in the country late last year, when Venezuelans were struggling to find a store selling toilet paper, Maduro decided to use his decree powers to make Christmas come early, declaring all of November “Christmas.” He also released a Christmas carol about “Saint Nicolás,” which was actually about himself, not Santa Claus.
Currently, 14 Venezuelan cities are hosting woman-only protests against the regime’s oppression, led by Congresswoman Maria Corina Machado and Lilian Tintori, wife of imprisoned political leader Leopoldo López. Thousands are said to be in attendance, according to Argentine news source Infobae. Two of the 15 deaths since the current political unrest began have been women: 22-year-old beauty queen Genesis Carmona and 23-year-old student Geraldine Moreno Orozco. Both are said to have been shot by state police or armed Chavistas and both were shot in the face, so as to prevent the possibility of an open casket funeral.
The government’s oppression has officially taken the lives of at least fifteen young protesters, and an estimated 500 instances of human rights abuses have occurred since López’s arrest on February 22, according to NGO sources within the state and opposition leaders monitoring the situation.