Alvaro Uribe Velez

Leaders in the Venezuelan government are blaming Colombia and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez for the violent nationwide protests that have gripped the country since last Wednesday. 

On Saturday, the Venezuelan President and the President of Venezuela’s Parliament claimed the country’s South American neighbor is a base for the subversive “fascist” plot they say is behind massive student protests ravaging the capital city of Caracas, along with other major urban centers throughout the country, according to various international media sources.

During an official visit to the southeast Venezuelan state of Bolivar, Diosdado Cabello, President of the National Assembly of Venezuela — the country’s parliament — accused former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe of fronting and financing a United States-led rebellion in the South American country.

“The [political] right is currently conspiring […] led from the United States with a base in Colombia,” Cabello was quoted as saying Saturday by the Spanish EFE newswire.

Large-scale student protests took to the streets of Venezuela’s major cities starting last Wednesday, reportedly to express discontent with a myriad of social and political issues, including widespread government corruption and a scarcity of basic goods throughout the country. In the wake of a violent state response toward protesters and media outlets active in the country, the Venezuelan government is now attributing social unrest to a Western conspiracy, orchestrated in part by Uribe.

“The narco “paraco” [paramilitary] Uribe [is] leading his friends from here [Venezuela],” Cabello continued, adding that the Colombian senate candidate was “an enemy of peace in the continent, an enemy of peace in Venezuela.”

Cabello claimed that a new round of nationwide protests Saturday were being promoted by people who want to “overthrow” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and that Uribe had sent a letter to a Venezuelan candidate for Senate asking her to meet with alleged co-conspirators to prepare “more dead” to justify a pending coup d’etat.

“It’s up to the people and the Armed Forces [to guarantee] that the fascist right doesn’t prevail here in Venezuela, [that] the men of the bourgeoisie won’t be able to [take control],” Cabello said.

Throughout his eight-year presidency, which spanned from 2002 to 2010, Uribe was a staunch opponent of the late Hugo Chavez, the former Venezuelan president who himself rose to office during an overthrow of the prior government and whose Bolivarian, socialist politics still serve as the model followed by his increasingly unpopular prodigy and successor, Maduro.

“Alvaro Uribe is behind this, financing and directing these fascist movements,” the current president reportedly said to a crowd of supporters on Caracas’s Bolivar Avenue, also on Saturday.

Prior to Chavez’s passing in 2013, Uribe frequently accused the late political icon of supporting Colombia’s oldest rebel group, the FARC, which maintains a presence in western Venezuela, near the Colombian border. Only recently have friendly diplomatic relations between the two countries resumed, after Uribe authorized a 2008 cross-border operation that saw Colombian troops attack a FARC unit in eastern Ecuador without Ecuadorian permission, prompting Chavez to move troops to the Colombian border.

On Saturday, Maduro claimed that Uribe “intended to use a Venezuelan television channel [NTN24] to do the same [thing] they did on 11 April 2002,” referring to a partially successful military coup led against Chavez nearly 12 years ago, in which political opponents in the military and a number of national media stations used backing from the Venezuelan business community and the pretext of national labor strikes to temporarily exile the Venezuelan president.

The Colombian-based NTN24 is one of a number of international media outlets to see its Venezuelan operations shutdown by the government in the past five days, along with national media outlets and Twitter, which was being used to disseminate news of the most recent protests.

This media freeze has made it difficult to obtain up-to-date information on the protests.

It appears, however, that Saturday saw both pro and anti-government protesters take to the streets of Caracas, the former summoned by Maduro to “defend peace” against the opposing “fascists,” while the latter continued to demonstrate against issues such as the country’s explosive crime rates, a failing economy with inflation at 56% and a shortage of staple supplies.

So far, the government’s reactions to protests have left at least three people dead and dozens more injured in what has been decried by international organizations as state repression. Reports have emerged that arrested student protesters are being tortured by the Venezuelan military.


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