Venezuelans clash as opposition sits in jail

2014-02-20 16:30
Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro hold a protest against opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. (Raul Arboleda, AFP)

Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro hold a protest against opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. (Raul Arboleda, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Caracas - Violent clashes flared up across Venezuela on Wednesday as the nation waited to learn what charges jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez will face for organising mass protests that have breathed new life into the movement challenging socialist rule in the oil-rich nation.

Gunfire echoed through downtown Caracas as President Nicolas Maduro spoke on live TV for more than two hours on Wednesday night denouncing what he calls a "fascist" plot to destabilise the country. Elsewhere, protesters set trash fires in streets or threw rocks at national guard troops, who fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.

There was no immediate word on whether there were any new casualties, after a week of demonstrations and clashes that have resulted in at least six deaths and more than 100 injuries.

'Send him to jail'

Lopez, who dramatically surrendered to authorities before thousands of cheering supporters on Tuesday, was supposed to appear before a judge inside a military jail to learn what charges he might face for organising the protests that the government has blamed for the violence.

The hearing was closed and the outcome had not been announced by late Wednesday, but Maduro suggested in his speech that Lopez would remain in custody and face criminal charges.

"I said, 'Send him to jail,' and that's what happened and that's what will happen with all of the fascists", Maduro said.

The government has accused Lopez, a 42-year-old former mayor and the leader of the Popular Will party, of attempting to foment a coup in the South American nation and authorities had said he could face charges that include homicide and causing grievous bodily harm.

Before the president's speech, a judicial official told The Associated Press that prosecutors were leaning toward discarding homicide and terrorism charges, opting instead to pursue less serious counts such as arson and incitement to commit crimes.

That would allow the possibility of Lopez being released pending trial, according to the official, who agreed to discuss the matter only if not quoted by name because the decision had not been made public.

Maduro made that seem unlikely. "I won't allow him to challenge the people of Venezuela, the constitution," he said.

The president also said he would take harsh measures in Tachira, an opposition stronghold on the western border with Colombia where there have been fierce clashes between national guard troops and opposition protesters. Maduro said he is prepared to declare a "state of exception", a form of martial law.

"If I have to decree a state of exception for Tachira and send in the tanks, I am ready to do it", he said.

Early in the day, hundreds of supporters waited outside a courthouse for news of Lopez's legal fate, watched over by national guard troops. Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, a member of a different opposition party, showed up at one point in a sign of unity among the various foes of the Maduro government.

Provoke violence

"We are all united in demanding the release of Leopoldo Lopez", Ledezma told the AP. "We are rallying behind him."

The crowd drifted away after hours of waiting when officials decided to hold the court hearing at the military jail outside the city where Lopez was being detained.

The opposition is planning marches across the country on Saturday to protest both his detention as well as the rampant crime, shortages of consumer goods and inflation rate of more than 50% that has made life difficult for many in the country of nearly 30 million people.

The jailing of Lopez has made him a cause celebre among opponents of Maduro, eclipsing to some degree Henrique Capriles, the opposition's two-time losing presidential candidate who was building support for another challenge in two years.

Capriles attended a rally on 12 February in Caracas led by Lopez but did not appear on the stage to address the masses of demonstrators. Clashes with police erupted afterward, after the opposition leaders had left, and resulted in three deaths. In Twitter messages on Wednesday, Capriles accused the government of infiltrating opposition demonstrations to provoke violence.

Maduro accused Lopez of leading a plot to oust the socialist government, the political legacy of the late Hugo Chavez, and authorities issued an arrest warrant for him. He surrendered theatrically on Tuesday, dressed in white to signify peace, adorned with a crucifix from his wife and surrounded by a sea of supporters.

"If my jailing serves to awaken a people, serves to awaken Venezuela then it will be well worth the infamous imprisonment imposed upon me directly, with cowardice", he shouted.

Much of the capital shut down afterward, fearing violent clashes, but the violence occurred in Valencia, the third largest city, where national guard troops fired rubber bullets and unknown gunman on motorcycles fired live rounds at protesters.

Genesis Carmona, a 22-year-old university student who had been Miss Tourism 2013 for the state of Carabobo, was struck in the head and killed by a bullet, a death that reverberated in a country that prizes beauty queens.

The troubles spread on Wednesday with a significant clash in the wealthy Altamira district of Caracas. In southern Bolivar state, gunman firing from a rooftop at a pro-government rally killed one person and wounded four, Governor Francisco Rangel Gomez said.

- AP
Read more on:    henrique capriles  |  nicolas maduro  |  venezuela
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Music

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The spotlight may be on you and you need to perform. This can be overwhelming and you need to stay as focussed and centred as you...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.