Fatigue Sets In as Venezuela Opposition Tries to Rally Crowds
(Bloomberg) -- Protests in Caracas drew scant crowds Tuesday as residents struggled for life’s necessities even as power was partially restored to the blacked-out city.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido called his followers into Venezuela’s streets Tuesday afternoon, but only small crowds gathered. A rally convened by the government was also sparsely attended.
“Venezuelans are being completely consumed by the search for the basics,” said Domingo Alvarez, 70, a retired journalist who joined about two dozen neighbors clapping and chanting for Guaido on a main street in downtown Caracas. “We are forced to pay for the inaction and mistakes caused by this government. Sadly, protesting is now secondary.”
Venezuela has spent months gripped by political crisis: Guaido’s attempt to topple President Nicolas Maduro, under whose regime the nation has fallen into ruin. When power went out on March 7, it choked off water service, stalled refineries and knocked the Caracas subway out of commission. The government has blamed a U.S.-sponsored cyber attack, but experts have said the real culprit is a lack of maintenance.
In Caracas, a metropolitan area of about 5.5. million, parts of the city saw power restored Tuesday, but in some cases swiftly blinked out again. Residents continued to hunt for potable water and food. Communications remained difficult with patchy mobile-phone service and internet.
On a bridge that overlooked a main avenue downtown, the government held a small rally attended by activists and militia members. Venezuelan folk music blared, drowning out the din of the small protests below, while red-shirted Maduro supporters sat watching state propaganda projected on a large screen.
Guaido, recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, drove around Caracas encouraging supporters to keep protesting in hopes of swaying the military to his side and occupying the presidential palace, Miraflores.
“No doubt, tough days are ahead, but they will determine our freedom,” Guaido said from a megaphone atop a car. “And you will tell your children, grandchildren and friends that we freed Venezuela once and for all.”
“When we have the armed forces fully aligned, we will go and take my office that is there in Miraflores very soon.”
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