Caracas, April 19th 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Thousands of Venezuelans paraded through the streets of Caracas this Tuesday to commemorate the founding of Venezuela’s First Republic in 1810.
Called by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the march saw government supporters march from Plaza Venezuela to the historic centre of Plaza Bolivar where they were greeted by the head of state.
“Today we are commemorating a huge cri de coeur which said no to all forms of imperialism, colonialism, and domination. Today is a day of independence, liberty, today is a day to celebrate a people which have fought for two centuries and never stopped. It is not a day for thieving oligarchies and little yankees, today is the day of the people in rebellion, the people of Chávez and Bolívar,”stated Maduro from beneath a heavy downpour of rain.
Dressed in red with signature caps and t-shirts emblazoned with revolutionary images and slogans, many of the marchers explained that they had also turned out to show support for the country’s head of state.
The beleaguered president is currently facing a potential recall referendum led by the country’s opposition, which could cut short his six year mandate by more than two years.
“We’re marching in support of Nicolas Maduro, so he continues the ideas of Chavez… Now that the opposition is making plays to topple his presidency. We have to weather the blows. That’s what we’ve managed to do up until now,”B. Morales from Portuguesa told Venezuelanalysis.
The referendum is being pushed forward amidst one of the worst economic crises to have hit Venezuela in decades.
But despite falling approval ratings for the government, Tuesday’s marchers stated that they blamed US imperialism, as well as national business interests, for the country’s economic woes.
“The country is under attack by Yankee imperialism, and that’s why the Bolivarian people, the Chavista people are in the streets… once again giving resounding support to Commander Chavez and President Maduro,” another marcher told state television channel VTV.
Other marchers voiced their support for Brazil’s moderate leftist president, Dilma Rousseff, who is facing possible impeachment, and chanted “Correa, we are with you,” in reference to Ecuador’s head of state, Rafael Correa. The allied Ecuadorean government is currently dealing with the humanitarian aftermath of a 7.8 earthquake which devastated the country last Saturday.
Just across town from the Chavista march, around two to three thousand opposition supporters also gathered in the wealthier district of Chacao in a bid to show their backing for the recall referendum against Maduro and to protest against the current government.
The opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), touted the event as “an open assembly” to activate the referendum against the president.
A range of rightwing politicians addressed the demonstrators, including former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski and MUD Secretary Chuo Torrealba, who called on the armed forces to break with the government and assured them that there would be no“witch hunt” if the opposition took power.
The politicians also called on the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE) to “hand over” the official forms for the collection of signatures in favour of the referendum.
Last Thursday the CNE officially confirmed that it had received a formal request for a recall referendum from the opposition and that it would subsequently submit the petition for review.
Earlier in the month, the electoral monitoring body accused the MUD of not following procedural norms for soliciting the referendum, provoking accusations of stalling and obstructionism from the rightwing coalition.
“Whatever we do, that tramp Tibisay Lucena, will halt it,”one anonymous demonstrator told Venezuelanalysis.
If the recall referendum request is approved by the CNE, then the MUD will have three days to collect the signatures of 20% of the registered electorate in favour of a national referendum on the president's mandate.
Maduro will be removed from office if a number greater than or equal to the amount of votes which initially saw him elected in 2013 is cast in favour of his removal.
The opposition previously organised an unsuccessful recall referendum against former leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias in 2004.
Opposition demonstrators cited the economic crisis and worsening insecurity as their principal grievances against the government.