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LatinNews Daily - 03 July 2018

Public protests continue in Venezuela as economic crisis drags on

Development: On 2 July dozens of people took part in a series of demonstrations in cities around Venezuela in protest at the deterioration of public services resulting from the country's deep economic crisis.

Significance: The demonstrations may have not been large in number, but they were widespread and the fact that they have not been organised by any political group but by residents points to growing public discontent with the government led by President Nicolás Maduro. This increases the public pressure on the Maduro government to adjust its economic policies and negotiate a solution to the political crisis.

  • Demonstrations were not only held in the national capital, Caracas, but in towns and cities across the country. They were led by local public health sector workers who have been demanding improved salaries and denouncing the deplorable state of the public health system, marked by severe shortages of basic medicines since last week.
  • The health sector workers were joined by residents who complained about things like shortages of drinking water, rolling blackouts due to problems with the national electricity distribution system, and the deplorable state of public transport services, which has been reduced to a minimum in many areas due to the breakdown of hundreds of buses that have not been repaired. This is despite a sharp increase in public transport fares in line with the hyperinflation in the country.
  • The protests by health sector workers have led to the effective shut down (only emergency services are being provided) of 26 hospitals in Caracas according to the Colegio de Enfermeros de Caracas nurses’ union, which has declared itself on indefinite strike. The Colegio de Enfermeros added that the doctors’ union has also started to adhere to the strike and that this was spreading to other states such as Zulia, Táchira, Lara, Mérida, and Bolívar.
  • Meanwhile local residents’ associations in Greater Caracas took to the streets and temporarily blocked roads in protest at the lack of drinking water, blackouts, and the recent increase in public transport fares. The residents complained that they have repeatedly raised concerns with the authorities but that all they get from them are “excuses”, and they demanded immediate action from the government to improve the provision of public services.
  • The authorities maintain that some of the problems are the result of temporary factors that should soon be resolved. The water ministry has said that the lack of drinking water in Greater Caracas is the result of planned works being carried out on the local water distribution system, while the blackouts are blamed on long-running problems with the national grid that the authorities are trying to resolve.

Looking Ahead: With the authorities apparently unable to solve the myriad problems faced by the Venezuelan people, the demonstrations and public discontent looks set to increase. The question is whether or not this will lead to a new major anti-government protest movement that can challenge the authority of the Maduro administration.