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First Person: Venezuela divided as Maduro completes first year in office

BY Larisa Epatko  April 18, 2014 at 9:02 AM EDT
Opposition students protest against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the Venezuelan Central University (UCV) campus in Caracas, on April 3, 2014. Photo by Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images

Opposition students protest against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the Venezuelan Central University (UCV) campus in Caracas, on April 3, 2014. Photo by Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images

Two months of protests in Venezuela, fueled by slow economic recovery and high crime, have left at least 40 people dead and prompted the Vatican and neighboring countries to intervene. If you ask the pro- and anti-government demonstrators why they rally for their cause, they reveal a disparate picture of how President Nicolas Maduro is handling this most recent crisis.

The PBS NewsHour sent a camera crew to talk to two women with very different views about how they see their country and their future.

“I can’t go out on the street and get what I want to feed my child, I always have to stand in line, always have to be looking from supermarket to supermarket to see what I can find,” said Geraldine Colmenares, who lives in San Cristóbal, Táchira state, with her son. “Also the lack of safety, I can’t go out on the street without thinking if I’m going to get back home alive, I mean, if I’ll get back home at all.”

She said former longtime President Hugo Chávez “had a good idea of what he wanted to do, but he didn’t know how to implement it.” Maduro “wants to do the same as Chávez but he can’t. He doesn’t have the intellectual capability to do it,” she added.

In Caracas, Marlin Marchand defended Maduro, who has been in office for a year. “President Maduro is a good person. He is on the side of the poor.”

Marchand said the president is trying to implement socialism the way Chavez would have wanted. “Maduro in spite of his mistakes, because nobody is perfect, is trying … to deal with this peacefully.”

Videos shot by Vincent Chanza and Daniel Ramirez, and edited by Victoria Fleischer and Justin Scuiletti. Watch Friday’s PBS NewsHour for a full report on Venezuela.