Caracas, March 14, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Rival marches flooded the streets of Caracas on Saturday as Venezuelans voiced their respective support for and opposition to the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
On the pro-government side, tens of thousands of Chavistas marched through the streets of heavily working class downtown Caracas expressing their firm rejection of a US executive order labeling Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat”.
Originally signed in March 2015, the decree was renewed by President Obama on March 4, provoking an outcry across the continent with regional multilateral blocs, including the CELAC, UNASUR, and ALBA, strongly denouncing the move.
Holding up signs reading “Venezuela respects itself” and “Obama repeal the decree now!”, the marchers vented their anger at US imperialism and President Obama, whom they lambasted as the “boss of the opposition”.
President Maduro likewise took aim at the US leader, whom he accused of promoting double standards regarding human rights.
“Venezuela is not the country who bombs defenseless peoples, financially strangulates nations who don’t do its bidding, or denies entry to war refugees; in no way can the Venezuelan government or its people be considered a threat,” he declared, speaking from the Plaza O’Leary near Miraflores Palace.
The head of state also took the opportunity to dismiss calls for his resignation, pledging to continue in his post “until the last day [of his term] which Chávez left him with the support of the people.”
Meanwhile, the call for Maduro’s resignation was the principal demand of a several thousand-strong opposition march that took to the streets of Caracas’ wealthy eastern municipality of Chacao that same afternoon.
The demonstration is part of a four-pronged strategy unveiled by the opposition coalition last week to secure the “exit” of Maduro, which includes a recall referendum, a constitutional amendment shortening the presidential term, a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution, and protests demanding the president’s resignation.
But the march saw lower turnout than expected, and attracted signicantly lower numbers than the opposition-led protests of 2014.
In his speech at the rally, National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup alluded to this “despair” among the opposition bases and called for renewed spirit.
"For us, any sacrifice is small, but please: we need more inspiration, more aid, more encouragement… We are going to temper our own despair,” he declared.
Other MUD political leaders such as rightwing hardliner, Maria Corina Machado, appeared to call on the crowd to use non-constitutional means to oust the national government.
"Some say that it is pointless to demand the resignation (of Maduro). I am telling you all, naive is he who believes that the resignation will be voluntary!"she told supporters.
After two months in command of the country’s National Assembly, the opposition coalition has thus far failed to pass its legislative agenda, including the highly controversial Amnesty Law, still in discussion and subject to subsequent constitutional review by the Supreme Court.
Since January, the national executive has passed a series of economic measures as part of a 60-day emergency economic decree sanctioned by the Supreme Court in January despite parliamentary opposition.
The renewal of the decree will be debated in the National Assembly this week.