Venezuelan anti-government demonstrators torched late President Hugo Chavez’s childhood home Monday, as the South American country continued to slide into chaos over protests against the ruling socialist regime.
Protesters burned down the house in the western city of Barinas where Chavez spent his early years, along with several government buildings, the Associated Press reported.
Chavez, who died in 2013, was a national icon and the founder of Venezuela’s anti-American, anti-capitalist “Bolivarian revolution.” Violent protests against his successor, Nicolas Maduro, have wracked Venezuela since early April, when opposition demonstrators took to the streets to denounce rampant crime, severe food shortages and soaring inflation.
The seething anger is now finding a target in Chavez, who was immensely popular among poor and working class Venezuelans for his left-wing populism and constant denunciations of “Yankee imperialism.” In addition to the childhood home, protesters also destroyed at least five statues commemorating Chavez, according to local officials.
The destruction capped a violent weekend in Barinas, where protesters clashed with national guardsmen and security forces blocked access to the downtown area, preventing a planned march on the Health Ministry to demand additional food and medical aid. Both sides have blamed the other for the escalating violence, which has left 49 people dead as of Monday. (RELATED: Venezuelan Police Tired Of Fighting Starving Citizens To Protect Socialist Dictator)
“In Venezuela there’s rising a counterrevolution of Nazi-fascist influence that that has infected the emotions and thinking of thousands of compatriots, who believe they have the right to pursue others for the simple crime of being Venezuelan or Chavista or revolutionary,” Maduro said Sunday during his weekly TV program. “This is terrorism.”
Opposition leaders have conceded that many among their ranks are guilty of criminal activity — reports of masked young men shaking down citizens for contributions to their “resistance” movement are common — but they insist that security forces and pro-Maduro militias are responsible for the majority of fatal attacks.
The Venezuelan government may be preparing take even more aggressive action to quell the violence. A top military commander was heard discussing plans to deploy snipers against protesters in order to suppress further public demonstrations, according to a recording leaked to the Miami Herald. (RELATED: Venezuelan General Urges Use Of Snipers To Deter Protesters)
“Once people start to see dead bodies, and dead bodies begin to appear, then everyone will begin to stay at home,” General Jose Rafael Torrealba told fellow commanders at a meeting earlier in May. “You will remember my words, the armed forces are the ones that have to solve this problem.”
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