The Venezuelan government, led by President Nicolas Maduro, has blamed “fascist groups” for the lives lost when an anti-government protest turned deadly in Caracas on February 12.
At least three people were killed during violence that broke out after a mainly peaceful rally. Two people died after gunmen on motorbikes opened fire. A third was killed in later clashes.
Student protests in Caracas and other cities have escalated into wider demonstrations against Maduro’s rule.
Opposition politicians, while condemning the violence, are calling for more demonstrations to demand change.
Economy in dire straits: a look at the numbers
One of the main criticisms of the government is mismanagement of the economy. Venezuela’s currency devaluation and its expanding money supply have pushed inflation up to a staggering 56 percent.
The Venezuelan economy’s dependence on crude oil exports has soared to more than 95 percent.
Furthermore, Transparency International rates Venezuela as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Maduro’s government blames “profit-hungry businessmen” for many of the problems – including food shortages that have left shoppers having to scour supermarkets to buy staples such as milk and toilet paper.
A dangerous place to live
There is also public anger about rising crime. There were more than 21,000 homicides in 2012, according to the Venezuela Violence Observatory – amongst the highest murder rates in the world.
Furthermore, many people do not believe that the current system can keep them safe; according to Transparency International, Venezuelans believe the most corrupt institution in the country is the police.
With crime soaring and the economy tanking – Venezuela’s twin problems, each feeding the other, look set to continue worsening unless at least one of them is brought under control.