According to the Wall Street Journal, one retired Venezuelan general said the protests against socialist Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro and his government are growing so large that Venezuelan authorities are unable to keep them under control.
Retired Gen. Miguel Rodríguez Torres, 53, who served as Maduro’s interior minister in 2013 and 2014, said that large riots and protests have cropped up in every major city, including the working class neighborhoods that once firmly supported Maduro’s government.
The protests began after judges allied with Maduro attempted to dissolve the opposition-controlled Congress in late March. This move, combined with starvation because of shortages of everything from food to basic necessities such as toilet paper, the country of Venezuela has become a powder keg. Almost 75 percent of Venezuelans are losing dangerous amounts of weight due to starvation, and women have been sterilizing themselves in order to avoid having another mouth to feed.
Torres said that President Maduro needs to begin negotiating election dates in order to avoid plunging the country into anarchy. Maduro postponed all Venezuelan elections — originally to be held in December — to mid-2017.
“Closing political avenues to elections means opening the door to violence,” Torres said. “They are heading toward anarchy on the streets.”
When serving as Maduro’s interior minister, Torres’s government forces quashed anti-government protests in 2014, resulting in 43 dead including protesters and police officers. The protests died out without any concessions from the government, demoralizing Maduro’s opposition for years.
Torres said things have gotten much worse since his time as interior minister, leading more protesters to take to the streets. He said that without the government getting to the economic roots of the crisis, repression will not work.
Inflation in the Venezuelan economy is expected to surge to 720 percent this year, and 2,068 percent in 2018. This has made Venezuelan currency, the Bolivar, virtually worthless. In response, Maduro has hiked the minimum wage up for the third time in under a year, and began allowing the use of food stamps as cash.
Torres said Maduro fired him in 2014 after he had criticized the president’s handling of the economy, particularly his control over the currency.
Today, Torres is considering running for president of Venezuela as an independent. He also founded the Wide Movement political group which focuses on ridding itself of chavismo, the political movement of Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s socialist predecessor.
“We can’t be thinking about saving chavismo now, we have to save the country,” Torres said.
In response to the unrest, Maduro called for a special assembly earlier this month with the intent to redraw the Constitution. Maduro claims that the assembly will have representatives from all sectors of society, but hinted that he will be selecting the constituents that will be electing the assembly members.
Opposition leaders have called this assembly a sham, and have stated that they will remain protesting in the streets until there is a free general election.
The government’s response to the most recent Venezuelan protests have reached points of brutal violence. Video has surfaced of a burning armored personnel carrier running over a civilian, as well as a group of the Venezuelan National Guard beating up a lone protester.