In a video circulating the globe, protesters in western Zulia state toppled a statue of late dictator Hugo Chávez, the latest such incident in a volatile Venezuela.
Demonstrations took place across Venezuela this weekend yet again, completing nearly a month of daily political resistance against the socialist regime.
The protests this weekend, billed the “women’s march against repression,” involved women taking over the streets of cities across the country to demand freedom from the country’s failed authoritarian regime under Nicolas Maduro.
Footage from the western state of Zulia showed two men stomping on a statue of Hugo Chávez, while others hurled insults at it.
The incident is the second of its kind during the latest wave of protests. In Carabobo, near the nation’s capital Caracas, protesters burned down a similar statue of the dictator in late April. While the statue remained standing, the fire rendered its likeness unrecognizable.
In far-west Táchira, anti-Chávez protester began toppling statues of the socialist dictator in 2014, beheading one such statue following comments critical of Maduro from the state’s governor, himself a socialist Chávista.
During his time in office, Chávez widely received praised from a number of prominent western academics, politicians, and celebrities for his socialist reforms, including Noam Chomsky, Jesse Jackson, Michael Moore, and Danny Glover. Chávez’s “reforms” included the mass seizure of private corporate enterprises, sending foreign investors fleeing, and significantly handicapping the nation’s domestic industries.
Recent figures show that a majority of Venezuelans go to bed hungry and 15 percent of people eat garbage to survive. The country desperately lacks basic resources, such as medicine and electric power.
The country’s defense minister Vladimir Padrino López denounced the protests, describing the opposition as “terrorists” attempting to illegitimately overthrow the government.
The protest is one of a string led by government opposition in recent weeks, many of which have descended into violence as authorities respond with excessive force, such as shooting protesters or steamrolling them with an armored tank. Recent estimates suggest at least 36 people have died as a result.
Last week, reports emerged that opposition leader Leopoldo López had become seriously ill while in captivity, as authorities denied both his family and his lawyers the right to visit him. Many have speculated he might be dead. The government responded by publishing a “proof of life” video of a man claiming to be López, which his wife, Lilian Tintori, has denounced as “false.”
On Saturday, President Donald Trump held talks with Peruvian leader Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to discuss this crisis. Trump stressed that he would do everything to “improve [the] democratic institutions and help the people of Venezuela.”