Watch: Venezuela Rising
In Caracas, Venezuela, thousands of citizens gathered to mark a year since the passing of the country’s late president Hugo Chavez. Despite a breakdown in relations with Panama and a poor turnout of regional leaders at the party, pro-government “Chavistas” were determined to have fun. Meanwhile, across town, protests by anti government activists continued unabated.
Five members of the feminist group FEMEN demonstrated topless in Times Square this morning against Russia’s actions in Ukraine. This protest was a continuation of the demonstrations which FEMEN has carried out throughout the world this month. They have protested from Paris to Crimea, speaking out against Moscow’s interference in Ukrainian sovereignty.
Cheers to the Revolution: Kiev’s Beautiful Molotov Cocktails
Kiev’s Euromaidan protestors use fire to their advantage. With fire, the protestors were able to defend their barricades, extend their lines, and fortify their positions. They were mobilized throughout the city to collect as many bottles as possible, and thousands of Molotov cocktails were used to set fire to tanks, other armored vehicles, and buses. These little bombs were the only real weapon protestors had against the government’s well-armed forces.
Donald Weber spent this February in Kiev photographing for VICE. Follow our coverage of breaking events in Kiev on VICE News.
All photos by Donald Weber/VII Photo
Venezuela Rising: As the crisis continues, it looks like protesters will stop at nothing until they see a change in their government.
What started as a protest early this month following a sexual assault at the University of the Andes in San Cristóbal has blown up into a massive political crisis in Venezuela, with no clear end in sight.
The assault set off the frustration of students with the country’s endemic crime problem. Local police responded aggressively, and their arrests and blithe mistreatment of protesters catalyzed demonstrations that have swept the country.
At least 14 people have been killed in clashes so far. Still recovering from a bitter, narrow loss to Maduro in the presidential election that followed Hugo Chávez’s death a year ago, opposition members have seized on the public’s disgruntlement—with the country’s security forces, its crippled economy, and the state’s abuse of power—as an opportunity to push much-needed reforms.
Now, weeks into this nascent resistance movement, the participants have determined that it’s time to state what it is they actually want.
Lists of demands have circulated online detailing measures “to get out of the crisis,” which range from the release of all detained protesters—of which there are at least 48, according to President Nicolas Maduro—to the disarmament and disbanding of paramilitary groups.
Are Cuban Special Forces Shooting at Venezuelan Protesters?
Eduardo Barreto isn’t sure if the armed guards that have been shooting at him were even Venezuelan.
Since joining his country’s protests earlier this month, the 20-year-old economics student from Valencia has been tear-gassed and chased by officers on motorcycles. He has watched his friends get shot in the back as they fled, and he was marching on the same street where student and beauty queen Génesis Carmona was killed last week.
He has little love for the National Guard, which the government has unleashed on protesters, but if he’s going to get shot, he’d like it at least to be done by a countryman.
“We know there are Cuban officers within our National Guard,” said Barreto, repeating widespread but unconfirmed reports that president Nicolás Maduro’s government might have tapped its island neighbor for help in protecting its Bolivarian revolution. “Can you imagine Russian officers joining the US National Guard to shoot at American citizens there? That’s unacceptable.”
Barreto says he has no doubt that at least some of the officers he has come across are Cuban. Early on in the protests—before guards started shooting at him—he brought them water bottles to cool off while they watched over demonstrators.
“They were in the streets standing in the sun all day, and I wanted to be friendly,” Barreto said. “One of them, when he thanked me, had a Cuban accent. I know a Cuban accent; I have uncles there.”
One Dead Man Carries Another: The Death Toll of the Venezuelan Protests
He was standing on a street corner when they shot him in the head. Four people, maybe five, carried him around looking for an ambulance, a car, a motorcycle. The body was slippery; they had to take turns. They lifted him by his arms and legs, with that puzzled solidarity that comes when you’re helping the wounded in riots. One was applying pressure on the wound with a piece of cloth, trying to stop the bleeding. They walked like that for a couple of blocks without finding anyone who could help them. Finally they ran into a policeman who, after hearing one of the young men cry for help, agreed to make a trip to a nearby hospital in the center of Caracas, Venezuela.
Bassil Da Costa, the wounded man, and Roberto Redman, who helped carry him, met each other that evening, February 12, during a Youth´s Day march organized by students and the Venezuelan opposition. Both De Costa and Redman are now dead, some of the first casualties of the violence that began after a crackdown on the march. A week later, chaos still reigns on the streets.
Da Costa, a 23-year-old carpenter, had never participated in a protest before; he lived in Guatire, a suburb of Caracas, and only marched because his cousins were going. Redman, a 31-year-old pilot, attended all the demonstrations he could, and lived in Chacao, the middle-class neighborhood in Caracas where most of the recent protests against the government have taken place. Redman wrote in his Twitter biography that he was a guarimbero, a term officials use to describe protesters. At 6:25 PM, Redman tweeted, “Today I was hit in the back with a rock, hit in the nose with a helmet, breathed tear gas, and carried the kid who died, and what did you do?” A few hours later he was dead—like Da Costa, of a shot in the head.
Hotels in Kiev Are Being Used as Makeshift Morgues As the Death Toll Rises
Last night, protesters and police made an uneasy truce in Kiev, but this morning the ceasefire was well and truly broken as blood was shed once more in the streets of the Ukrainian capital. The death toll keeps rising. The Kyiv Post is reporting that at least 37 people have been killed—mainly from police gunshots. Yesterday, the country’s Lviv region declared independence from the central government after protesters seized the prosecutor’s office and the police surrendered.
President Yanukovych is today meeting with EU foreign ministers, and the EU will discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions. Yet it looks like Russia will prop up the Ukrainian economy by buying £1.2 billion in government bonds. Obama didn’t think much of this, attacking Putin for Russia’s role in the crisis and claiming to be “on the side of the people.”
VICE UK’s news editor, Henry Langston, is on the streets of Kiev. He called us this morning to give us an update on the situation.
VICE: Hi, Henry. Things sound pretty horrible out there. What can you tell me?
Henry: I’ve already seen several bodies, which have definitely been hit by gunshots. One guy was wearing a Kevlar vest but without the armour plate; there was a huge hole in it with blood surrounding it. They draped the bodies in a Ukrainian flag. They were young men, possibly in their mid 20s. Earlier, some protesters were shot when they were charging towards some police vans.
Can you tell me how the truce broke down? I thought Yanukovych and the opposition leaders were trying to bring some stability to the situation.
At about 8 AM, the protesters re-took the parts of Independence Square that police had withdrawn from as part of the truce. In retaliation to that, the police opened fire. I have been shown rounds from handguns. There are lots of worried people; these people cannot fight against AK-47s. They have shields and clubs. We haven’t seen any guns on the protesting side. That said, there are reports that outside of Kiev a large number of weapons were seized by protesters who stormed government buildings.