Exclusive: Opposition Leaders on the Strange Collapse of Venezuela’s Protest Movement

AP Photo
Just a few months ago, amid a worsening humanitarian crisis and the prospect of an illegal power grab, Venezuela’s anti-government protests had reached a tipping point. In April, the opposition coalition announced daily protests against the socialist government led by Nicolás Maduro, leading to street movements unparalleled in size. Daily marches took place to call for fresh elections and oppose the rewriting of the country’s constitution with the creation of a fraudulent lawmaking body known as the “national constituent assembly,” which usurped the power of the democratically-elected National Assembly and effectively rendered the country into a dictatorship. The protests were typically characterized by violence, as government-controlled security forces used brutality to contain the crowds. Unarmed, peaceful protesters faced water cannons, rubber bullets, and smoke bombs. Some of the more shocking images included a 14-year-old being run over by a tank and a naked man, approaching police with a Bible, being sprayed with rubber bullets. According to the Attorney General’s office, 125 people have been killed since the protests began. The election designed to legitimize the assembly on July 30 was boycotted by around 80 percent of people. Police killed another 16 people and arrested over 100. Maduro consequently claimed victory, falsely claiming a turnout of 41.5 percent and hailed the poll
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