TIME Venezuela

Armed Forces Push Residents Out of ‘World’s Tallest Slum’

As part of a governmental initiative, squatters are being removed from their residences by armed forces.

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On Tuesday, Venezuelan armed forces began the process of forcing out residents at the Tower of David, the nation’s tallest slum, the government’s “Great Housing Mission.”

The 45-story building, originally built to be a high-rise bank, was never completed and abandoned, then taken over by people in need of shelter.

Prior to the start of the evacuation, the slum acted as home to over 3,000 squatters, many of whom have resisted their removal. The building is also home to businesses including a beauty salon, multiple bodegas, and an unlicensed dentist.

TIME Money

And the World’s Most Expensive City for Expats Is…

Caracas, Venezuela
View of Central Caracas. Getty Images

Down and out in Paris and London? Try spending a year in the world's biggest cost sinks, Venezuela, Angola or South Sudan

A new ranking of the world’s most expensive cities for expats knocked the usual candidates — New York, Tokyo and London — off of the list. The true epicenters of sticker shock were Venezuela, Angola and South Sudan.

Global staffing firm ECA International surveyed prices in 440 cities, focusing on items that expats were most likely to buy on a daily basis, including groceries, clothing and bar tabs. The cities that topped the list tended to fall in one of two areas: Wealthy swathes of Scandinavia and economies coming apart at the seams.

Caracas, Venezuela topped the list after runaway inflation hurdled the city from 32nd place to 1st in one year. Surveyors found price levels 40% above the second costliest city: Oslo, Norway. Luanda, Angola came in third partly due to import tariffs that have hiked the price for a half-liter tub of vanilla ice cream to $31. Rounding out the list was Juba, South Sudan, where a 90 kilometer drive along one of the only continuous roads to the outside world can take upwards of 24 hours to navigate, according to the World Bank.

The list offers a stark reminder that outside of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, the real sticker shock tends to hit the people who can least afford it.

Global Rank 2014 Country City
1 Venezuela Caracas
2 Norway Oslo
3 Angola Luanda
4 Switzerland Zurich
5 Switzerland Geneva
6 Norway Stavanger
7 Switzerland Bern
8 Switzerland Basel
9 South Sudan Juba
10 Denmark Copenhagen

Source: ECA International

 

TIME Venezuela

Venezuelan Capital Hit By Fresh Wave of Riots

Anti-government demonstrators marked Easter Sunday by burning effigies of President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas

A fresh bout of violence broke out on Sunday in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, the BBC reports.

Demonstrators opposed to the government of President Nicolas Maduro were beaten back by police with water cannons and tear gas after launching petrol bombs in the district of Chacao. Other masked protestors burned effigies of the president in a day of demonstrations entitled “Rally for Democracy.”

The demonstrations began in February when protestors demanded action against Venezuela’s high rates of crime and food shortages, and spiraling inflation rate. Over 40 people have died in the continuing violence, with hundreds arrested. Supporters of the president have also been protesting, with tens of thousands of people dressed in red taking to the streets. But many within the opposition movement have vowed to keep demonstrating until Maduro leaves power.

“We’re staying in the street until we get our country back,” 22-year-old student leader Djamil Jassir told the BBC.

[BBC]

 

TIME Venezuela

Venezuela Arrests One Mayor and Imprisons Another in a Widening Crackdown

VENEZUELA-POLITICS-OPPOSITION-PROTEST
Venezuelan opposition students take part in a protest against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on March 19, 2014. JUAN BARRETO—AFP/Getty Images

Intelligence agents arrested the mayor of San Cristobal, a city of 250,000 near the Colombian border, for aiding a "civil rebellion"

Venezuelan intelligence agents arrested the mayor of San Cristobal on Wednesday, while another opposition mayor was sentenced to 10 months in jail for dereliction of duties.

According to Reuters, both mayors stand accused of allowing protesters to barricade city streets, and in the case of the arrested mayor, supporting “irrational violence.”

At least 31 people have died in clashes between protesters demanding the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro and police trying to reestablish control over opposition strongholds.

[Reuters]

TIME South America

Venezuelan Student Leader Killed in Anti-Government Clashes

Clashes between anti-government protesters and state security forces have resulted in the death of student leader

A student leader was fatally shot in the chest Monday night in the Venezuelan university city of San Cristobal, as protests continue to rock the country.

The mayor of the city, Daniel Ceballos, said the student, Daniel Tinoco, had been killed after dark, although he did not say who might be responsible, the Associated Press reports. The incident came after a full day of street clashes between both peaceful and violent protesters and the Venezuelan security forces.

Anti-government sentiments have run hot in San Cristobal, where for the last month there have been on-going protests against escalating inflation, high murder rates and short supplies of basic goods. Venezuelan National Guardsmen fired teargas and plastic shotgun pellets at the demonstrators.

Ceballos accused the government forces of reacting disproportionately, claiming that “where the government sees paramilitaries, in truth there are just citizens who are defending themselves.”

[AP]

TIME Venezuela

Venezuela Expels Panama Ambassador, Top Diplomats

A protester throws a molotov cocktail at Venezuelan security forces during an anti-government demonstration on March 6, 2014 in Caracas.
A protester throws a molotov cocktail at Venezuelan security forces during an anti-government demonstration on March 6, 2014 in Caracas. John Moore—Getty Images

Quartet given 48 hours to leave the country

Venezuela’s government has broken off ties with Panama and expelled its ambassador and three other diplomats.

The foreign ministry of Venezuela declared the quartet “persona non grata” in the troubled Latin American country and ordered them to leave within 48 hours.

The Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has also frozen all trade and economic ties with Panama.

The note was delivered after Panama called a meeting between North, South and Central American countries to seek a solution to the tense situation in Venezuela. On Feb. 4, anti-government protests erupted and quickly turned violent.

At least 20 people have died in clashes between protesters and riot police, and close to 300 persons have been injured.

[AFP]

TIME Venezuela

3 Reasons Venezuela’s Protesters Won’t Win

Protesters raise their hands in a sign of peace after the Bolivarian National Guard cut the march in two parts, not allowing part of the march to continue, Caracas, March 4, 2013.
Protesters raise their hands in a sign of peace after the Bolivarian National Guard cut the march in two parts, not allowing part of the march to continue, Caracas, March 4, 2013. Eduardo Leal—Polaris

A day after Venezuela commemorated the one-year death anniversary of its charismatic and demagogic former President Hugo Chavez, the clashes and protests that have roiled the country for weeks showed no sign of abating. At least two people died Thursday in Caracas during a confrontation between demonstrators barricading a street and paramilitary and National Guard forces attempting to disperse them. That brings the death toll to 20 in less than a month of unrest.

What began as student protests animated by the disastrous state of the country’s economy—wracked, as it is, by record inflation and food and goods shortages—has morphed into perhaps the greatest challenge facing the regime that Chavez built, which in recent years has been mired in allegations of corruption and incompetence. The opposition accuses Chavez’s handpicked successor, President Nicolas Maduro, of brutally cracking down on dissent and stifling freedom of speech. Maduro has rounded angrily on his domestic opponents as well as critics overseas, most recently breaking diplomatic ties with nearby Panama. But despite the upheaval, those seeking the collapse of the Chavista state are likely to be disappointed. Here’s why:

Venezuela is not Ukraine. Ever since the country’s unrest began, it has been obscured from global attention by the crisis in Ukraine. The standoff in Kiev, followed by the political chaos that prompted Russia’s power play in the Crimea, is a narrative more urgent to outside observers, staged on a Cold War landscape familiar to the West. Venezuela, in comparison, seems a Caribbean pantomime. A leftist leader fumes against mythical fascist plots and yanqui imperialism; his enemies mutter darkly about the reach of Cuban agents. But Maduro does not straddle as precarious a geopolitical faultline as Ukraine’s now ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. To be sure, the events have many in the region concerned, not least as Venezuela sits atop some of the world’s largest oil reserves. But Maduro retains considerable popular support among a whole section of society uplifted, or at least persuaded, by Chavez’s socialist populism. And while he appears to have unleashed both government forces and paramilitary groups—motorcycle gangs known as colectivos—to vicious effect on the demonstrations, even those who are angry and galvanized among the protesters seem doubtful of winning real, revolutionary gains.

The opposition is weak. Despite his best efforts to publicly bind himself to Chavez’s legacy, Maduro clearly lacks his predecessor’s force of personality. Yet opposition politicians have been unable to capitalize on the former bus driver’s political frailties. Some seem stigmatized by their connections to the country’s traditional elite—whose corruption and abuse of power in earlier decades gave rise to Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. U.S.-educated Leopoldo Lopez, the now jailed opposition leader who rose to the fore during the protests, made a valiant effort to whip up popular support. But his uncompromising anti-government stance appears to have irked the other prominent opposition figure, Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost to Maduro in elections last year and was slowly, carefully broadening his base in the hope of electoral success down the road. The Chavista camp has too strong a hold on the organs of the state to be toppled by the protests, at least in their present form. And, as TIME contributor Girish Gupta reported last month, many of those massing at the barricades have little love for the opposition either.

If Maduro falls, it’ll likely be at the hands of a Chavista rival. Indeed, perhaps the real political story underlying Maduro’s woeful year in power is that of the machinations of the man who almost won his post—Diosdado Cabello, Chavez’s other favored lieutenant. Cabello now helms Venezuela’s main legislature and is seen as something of a master manipulator behind the scenes, a bullying schemer deeply invested in the survival of the Chavista state and its possession of vast oil reserves. But in recent weeks, there are signs that the tacit struggle between him and Maduro has become “more pronounced,” writes Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, a columnist for the Venezuelan daily El Universal. As Maduro’s reputation plummeted, Cabello started to play a more public, outsized role—launching even his own weekly TV show in the style of Chavez. He is believed to command the backing of much of the army as well as wealthy pro-government businessmen. Even if he didn’t replace Maduro, suggests Lansberg-Rodriguez in the Atlantic, he would be Venezuela’s kingmaker: “If Maduro falls, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Cabello does not play an integral role in deciding who and what succeeds him.” That’s a prospect unlikely to excite the anguished crowds now braving tear gas and birdshot on Venezuela’s streets.

TIME Venezuela

Venezuela Marks First Anniversary Of Chavez’s Death

While President Nicolas Maduro struggles to live up to his legacy

Supporters of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took to the streets across the country Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of his death from cancer.

A planned military parade in the capital city of Caracas was set to demonstrate current president Nicolas Maduro’s ability to mobilize the population, reports Reuters, as a series of violent anti-government protests continue to undermine his leadership.

Chavez was immensely popular among the poorest members of Venezuela’s population, thanks to his anti-American rhetoric and generous spending on slum projects. Yet barely a year after his death, his successor has faced a series of challenges from the protests, which have resulted in a reported 18 deaths. Maduro has been blamed for not doing enough to overcome many of the country’s problems, including rampant crime and spiraling living costs.

However, Chavez’s cousin Guillermo Frias claimed that although Chavez “changed Venezuela forever,” he insisted that “Maduro is also a poor man, like us. He’s handling things fine. Perhaps he just needs a stronger hand.”

[Reuters]

TIME Venezuela

Venezuela’s Protests Against Maduro Government Continue

At least 17 people have died in clashes between security forces and pro- and anti-government demonstrators.

Venezuela approaches a full month of nationwide instability and violence as protests against the government of Nicolas Maduro continue and anger at the country’s repressive turn and basket-case economy smolders. At least 17 people have died in clashes between security forces and pro- and anti-government demonstrators.

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