Tags: Venezuela | Nicolas Maduro

Maduro Tempts Protesters to Abandon Streets With 6-Day Holiday

Maduro Tempts Protesters to Abandon Streets With 6-Day Holiday

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 06:12 PM

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is betting that an unexpected six-day holiday starting tomorrow will help diffuse two weeks of demonstrations that have left 14 people dead.

Maduro this week expanded the annual Carnival festivities by decreeing tomorrow and Friday national holidays, in addition to previously scheduled days off on March 3-4. Antonio Iskandar, an eye doctor in western Caracas who has taken part in protests, said that while Maduro’s strategy may offer the government a respite, it won’t keep people off the streets.

“Six days of holidays is a very tempting opportunity for people to see their families.” Iskandar, 25, said in a telephone interview. “This is our best chance and we can’t stop now. We aren’t leaving the streets until Maduro is out.”

Venezuela has been racked by demonstrations since Feb. 12 as protesters angry about chronic shortages of basic goods, the world’s fastest inflation and crime take to the streets nightly. Maduro has called on a cross-section of Venezuelan society, including union workers, intellectuals, clergy and students to come to Caracas today and sign an agreement condemning violence.

“Will barricades, will burning, will more deaths help improve the economic situation,” Maduro said today. “Why do we have to live through this in Venezuela where there’s a democracy with all the guarantees for the people?”

The opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable, which skipped a Feb. 24 meeting of regional governors with the president, said today it won’t attend the event organized by Maduro.

Caribbean Beaches

It’s leader Henrique Capriles, who lost to Maduro in elections to succeed Hugo Chavez last year, has called on the Catholic Church to serve as a mediator and insisted the government release jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was detained after the government accused him of inciting violence.

While the extended vacation may send thousands of Venezuelans to the country’s Caribbean beaches, Maduro will still need to offer concessions to extend any lull in the violence beyond the holidays, said Carlos Romero, a political analyst at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas.

“It isn’t a magical solution,” Romero said in a phone interview. “It might reduce the number and characteristics of the protests, but that won’t mean Venezuela’s wounds are healed.”

Regulated Market

Maduro is taking steps to address a dollar shortage that has crimped imports, causing shortages of everything from chicken and cooking oil to medicine and paper. Bank of America Corp. and Barclays Plc both changed their recommendations on Venezuelan bonds to overweight after the government published rules Feb. 24 allowing companies and individuals a new way to buy dollars in a regulated market. Previously, the central bank was the sole supplier of greenbacks and as foreign reserves fell, less foreign currency was made available to pay for imports.

Venezuela’s benchmark dollar bonds due in 2027 fell 0.30 cents on the dollar to 69.83 cents today, ending a five-day rally.

The government also made moves to address complaints about police repression by arresting eight officers from the intelligence police, known as Sebin, over the murder of two people during protests on Feb. 12.

Those deaths stoked protester resentment. Demonstrators have barricaded streets in cities across the country, leading to confrontations with National Guard troops and pro-government forces.

Jhonathan Abreu, an information technology officer at the Labor Ministry’s office in Tachira state, where the protests originated, said demonstrations have intensified each day.

“Here in Tachira we know that if the protests stop, Maduro will stay, and all our sacrifice will be in vain,” Abreu said. “People here prefer to pass one year without Carnival than five more years of dictatorship. We can’t stop now.”

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is betting that an unexpected six-day holiday starting tomorrow will help diffuse two weeks of demonstrations that have left 14 people dead.
Venezuela,Nicolas Maduro
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 06:12 PM
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