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February 20, 2014

Protests in Venezuela Reach Boiling Point

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Protests in the South American country of Venezuela turned deadly this week. Demonstrators burned trash and made noise any way they could outside a court in the capital, Caracas, where a top opposition leader faces criminal charges.

The protests center around Venezuela’s charismatic leader, President Nicolas Maduro, and his handling of the economy. Millions live in crushing poverty even though Venezuela has the biggest oil and natural gas reserves in the world.

“We cannot support Maduro. He’s a bad man. He’s worse than Chavez. There are no medicines. There’s nothing in this country. For how long are we going to continue to suffer in this country?” asked Venezuelan protester Maria Sanchez.

Demonstrators are also critical of rampant crime, controls on the media and food shortages under Maduro.

Maduro has fired back at protesters, saying he could, “guarantee peace in the face of the fascists gathering today with their armed gangs, with their trained groups, so that there would be peace.”

Maduro was elected last April by a razor-thin margin. He had been vice president for the late Hugo Chavez, who feuded with successive American presidents and accused the U.S. of orchestrating a 2002 coup.

On Monday, Venezuela’s foreign minister ordered three American diplomats to leave the country. It’s been four years since the U.S. posted an ambassador there.


Warm up questions
  1. Where is Venezuela?
  2. What are some things that your government has done that you don’t agree with?
  3. What are some ways that people make their voices heard when they are frustrated with their government?
Discussion questions
  1. Who is protesting in Venezuela and why?
  2. What is Venezuela’s relationship with the United States?
  3. What does it mean for a government to have control over the media?
  4. Who is being hurt by the policies of the Venezuelan president?
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