Protests across Venezuela are quickly becoming acts of civil disobedience rather than politically organized movements, El Nacional reports.
This week, citizen-led protests in Baruta, Chacao, El Hatillo, Sucre, and others zones in the west of Caracas led to the shutdown of roads and highways, despite not being called upon by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a coalition of political parties that has organized most protests since the recent wave of dissident activity beginning in April.
The protests began on Monday evening, following a referendum on Sunday in which 98 percent of the 7.2 million participants voted against President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to create a “constituent assembly,” which critics argue will further cement the government’s authoritarian grip on power. The plan, referred to as the constituyente, would repeal the power of lawmakers and replace them with local leaders handpicked by the regime.
“From now on, the protests won’t be called on by the MUD, we will decide ourselves,” another protester in La Trinidad said.
Civilians reported more instances police brutality, as the National Guard launched tear gas at protesters and apartment blocks. Eight people were arrested in Tachira, while a further five were detained in Maracaibo.
“These protests can’t be one day and not the next,” one protester said in Sante Fe. “This has to be a permanent thing.”
Anti-government protests in Venezuela have been rising in intensity since the opposition called for daily demonstrations in April, amid the country’s worsening economic, political, and humanitarian crisis. Protesters have also denounced the country’s socialist government as a dictatorship, using security and military apparatus to maintain control.
In the past few months, displays of resistance have included people setting fire to the headquarters of the nation’s Supreme Court and a man throwing grenades at the building from a helicopter.
With inflation likely to hit 1500 percent by the end of the year, fewer and fewer Venezuelans can afford basic resources such as food, medicine, and sanitary products. A recent report found that over 15 percent of Venezuelans now scavenge for food, while a majority of people go to bed hungry.
According to an ongoing analysis from Venezuelan outlet RunRunes, at least 116 people have died in the protests, as police increase their use of brutality to contain the protesters with the use of tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets.
This week, President Donald Trump warned that the United States would “not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” and would impose “strong and swift economic actions” should Maduro push ahead with the creation of the constituent assembly.