Venezuela has been gripped by its largest protests for more than a decade.
The unrest, which began in early February with peaceful student demonstrations, has turned deadly. An estimated 30 protesters have been killed in violent police crackdowns.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, who was handpicked by Hugo Chavez to succeed him, does not enjoy close to the same level of public support as his predecessor.
Trumpeting his modest background as a bus driver and union activist, the self-proclaimed “worker president” vowed to drive forward Chavez’s vision of “21st century socialism”.
But all that many demonstrators see is the government’s failure to make the country more successful, secure and safe.
The protests began on university campuses in the west of the country, with calls for increased security after a female student alleged that she had been the victim of an attempted rape.
Soaring crime rates are a key cause of public anger. Venezuela has the fifth highest murder rate in the world.
The economy is also in dire straits. In January, the annualised inflation rate stood at a staggering 56 percent according to official figures.
Supermarkets in several parts of Venezuela have been facing food shortages.
One shopper in Caracas told reporters: “There is no coffee, no flour, no cooking oil, no butter, no cornflakes!”
Given Venezuela’s numerous problems, there are a wide range of demands among the protesters. But the most hardline demonstrators say they will not stop until Maduro steps down.
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