Thousands march for change in Venezuela
President Nicolas Maduro's opposition continues protests
CARACAS – Consumers in Venezuela continue to face shortages. Inflation shot up to 800 percent. The economy shrunk by 16.8 percent in what an economist referred to as the worst year on record. With petroleum prices plummeting, critics of President Nicolas Maduro say the oil-rich country's economy is likely to only get worst.
Maduro continues to blame the state of the economy on an "economic war." His opposition in Venezuela and Miami blame it on the mismanagement of an 18-year socialist rule and criticized Maduro's recent decision to appoint political ally Ricardo Sanguino as the new chief of the country's central bank.
Sanguino replaces Nelson Merentes, a mathematician who led the bank since 2009 and has been blamed for the free fall of the Bolivar. During a televised address on Sunday, Maduro said Sanguino was "one of the most studious and knowledgeable men when it comes to the financial, economic and monetary life of our country."
A day later, thousands of Venezuelans turned out to protest. They have lost faith in Maduro, who was elected in 2013, and the leftist policies of Hugo Chávez that he has promised to maintain.
The Monday march was scheduled to end in front of the National Electoral Council, the branch of government that is supposed to oversee all elections and referendums. Protesters wanted to turn in a petition. They arrived just outside of the federal district, but the Bolivarian National Police set up a blockade to stop them.
"We are marching today for a country that needs, wants and demands change," Julio Borges, the opposition speaker of congress, said in Spanish. "That change will only be achieved through a vote."
The protest was during a historic day for Venezuela. In 1958, dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez moved to the U.S. after street riots turned into a military uprising. Patriotism was felt, as most protesters wore the colors of the Venezuelan flag.
The crowds on Monday in Caracas were not as large as in September when protesters were demanding a referendum.
In Miami, some attributed this to intimidation tactics. With the governments' influence over the judiciary, leaders of the opposition and protesters have ended up in prison. Others said Maduro's opposition is just not aggressive enough and some have grown disillusioned.
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