Thousands of Venezuelans marched through the streets of Caracas today to demand that Maduro resign from office immediately. The march was organized by the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), and culminated with speeches by political figures.
National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup gave an impassioned speech at march’s end-point, Elice street in the Chacao municipality. Allup encouraged the crowd by saying that no force that the PSUV could muster – from “bureaucracy, police, or gang” – could stop them from exercising their constitutional right to assemble and protest.
Allup praised the work of the opposition bloc at the National Assembly, and acknowledged the fact that the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) has made their task more difficult by throwing up legal roadblocks. Allup called the TSJ “one of the most discredited institutions as of late”, and warned that corrupt government officials would have to answer for this crimes sooner or later:
The National Assembly is facing obstacles created by the government’s law firm [the TSJ]. Sooner or later, many of them [government officials] will end up in Venezuelan jails. We have to continue to fighting despite the TSJ’s threats.
Allup argued that Maduro is himself a political prisoner, since he believes that powerful figures in the military and the PSUV are continuously pressuring Maduro to stay in power for their benefit.
Allup ended his turn at the microphone with a personal plea for Maduro:
If Maduro knows that things are [so terrible], why doesn’t he resign? Maduro, spare us a tragedy: resign! You can’t stay [in power]. Do Venezuela a favour – not just the opposition supporters, but also your own party and supporters, who will thank you infinitely for not completely burying Venezuela’s hopes.
Other speakers at the opposition rally included deputy Freddy Guevara, Vente Venezuela‘s Maria Corina Machado, and the head of the MUD, Jesus Torrealba.
Below, some pictures of the opposition rally in Caracas.
National Assembly deputy Freddy Guevara speaking to the crowd:
National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup walking alongside his partner, Diana D’Agostino:
PSUV Holds Counter-Rally in Caracas
The PSUV held a rally for government supporters in Caracas’ west end at the same time as the opposition march. The official reason for the PSUV rally was to protest against Obama’s extension of sanctions against government officials suspected of violating human rights.
Allup lamented what he considered to be the pointless reason for the PSUV rally, given the tangible issues affecting the country:
He [Maduro] called [for a demonstration] against Obama’s decree. Another smokescreen. Of course he didn’t call for an event to announce measures to make food or medicine re-appear, or to announce security measures, or to announce measures to ensure that every Venezuelan has access to water and electricity. No, not for that. It’s to protest Obama’s decree.
At the event, Maduro stressed once again that he had no intention of resigning, and suggested that he would put up a fight against any constitutional attempt to remove him from office:
They [the opposition] are crazy. You know who I’m talking about. They’ve gone insane (…) they can do whatever they want. I’m here to fight. Maduro will be here until the last day that Hugo Chavez gave him. With the support of the people and the National Bolivarian Armed Forces and of history, and with the absolute decision that no one will surrender. They can come at me. There’s enough people to face them, along with the constitution and peace. They can’t beat us.
Maduro also insisted that “the Bolivarian revolution has created a social miracle”, despite a worsening shortage of food and medicine, along with virtually every consumer product.
During his speech, Maduro announced that every Venezuelan public sector worker, including teachers, would have holidays from Monday, March 19 to Sunday, March 27. Maduro explained the reason for the unexpected vacation:
I want to announce that I’m going to come out with a special emergency decree to face against the El Niño. We’re taking measures to save water. It hasn’t rained, but we are men [who can face] difficulties (…) I’ve made the decision to declare all of Holy Week a holiday for all public workers around the country and for all educational workers.
We’re going to be lovingly knocking on everyone’s door asking them to join.
Below, pictures from the PSUV rally earlier today.
Maduro standing beside someone who appears to be Cilia Flores:
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