Venezuela Rises Up

Forty-four days and nights of relentless protest

May 18, 2017

On April 4, 2017, Venezuelans decided they had had enough. Enough of the shortages. Enough of the interminable store lines. Enough of the hunger, and of the inflation, and of the crime and of the government’s crackdown on the opposition. Enough of everything.

In cities all across the country that day, they took to the streets to protest.

And haven’t left since.

For 44 days and nights, they have demonstrated against President Nicolás Maduro almost without pause. At times they’ve been peaceful; at other times violent. Government forces and militia groups have responded with an iron fist. They’ve beaten scores of protesters, dragged some in front of military tribunals and killed others.

At last count, the death toll was 43.

The protesters are young and old, black and white, rich and poor. They are college students and laid-off factory workers, octogenarian grandparents and street kids, business executives and janitors.

It is this diversity that makes the uprising now very different from others in the past. Back in 2014, or during the demonstrations a decade earlier against Maduro’s socialist mentor, Hugo Chávez, the protesters hailed predominantly from middle and upper-class families. In Caracas, they congregated almost exclusively in the affluent eastern half of the city. Now the movement is slowly spreading to the hillside slums of western Caracas—to old Chavista strongholds such as El Valle, Petare and 23 de Enero.

The protesters are more organized, more determined and better equipped than ever. They get gas masks, helmets and gloves from sympathetic donors and make their own shields and molotov cocktails. They put second-line marchers in critical spots to aid the fallen and map out escape routes. Some hold prayer sessions before taking to the street. Others paint their faces and scrawl patriotic messages on their bodies.

The government calls them terrorists.

They call themselves the Resistencia, and swear that, this time, they’re not walking away until Maduro has fallen.

Photographs for Bloomberg Businessweek

Photo Editors: Diana Suryakusuma and Eugene Reznik

Development: James Singleton