Knoxville Protest of Venezuelan Government to Be Held Tonight

In The Daily Dumpster Blog by S. Heather Duncanleave a COMMENT

Venezulan expats and their supporters plan to gather at 6 p.m. today in Krutch Park to protest the actions of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and his government.

Maduro won the presidency after longtime president Hugo Chavez’s death in 2013. Under the two, Venezuela’s economy – once one of the strongest in South America, due to its vast oil reserves – has been ravaged by runaway inflation and extreme food shortages as crime skyrockets. The resulting poor living conditions have led to large-scale protests escalating in recent months. (For a good primer on the crisis, see this NBC summary.)

Jose Calabres, a former Venezuelan journalist who escaped to Knoxville 18 months ago, says the main goal of the event is to encourage Venezuelans living here to spread accurate information about what is happening among people they know back home, using social networks and blogs. “In our country, nobody knows what is going on,” he says.

Maduro suspended a recall movement last year, and has taken other steps to stifle dissent and the free press that have led him to be widely described as a dictator – even before his regime began killing and jailing protestors.

In March, the country’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice took over the legislative powers of the National Assembly, whose members mostly belonged to the Maduro opposition. Widely condemned internationally and within Venezuela, the change was rescinded within days, but Maduro has since called for a rewrite of the country’s constitution. Widespread protests have led to violent showdowns with security forces, with at least 37 people killed in the last month.

Calabres says the Venezuelan expatriots rallying today want to build support for protests against Maduro by sharing information about how to send equipment and crowdfunded donations to groups that are helping protestors, such as medical students that are treating the injured.

Calabres adds, “We want to be united with all other Latin American nations in this fight, because our issues are the same issues that other Latin American countries have: Corruption, drugs, injustice.”

S. Heather Duncan has won numerous awards for her feature writing and coverage of the environment, government, education, business and local history during her 15-year reporting career. Originally from Western North Carolina, Heather has worked for Radio Free Europe, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in London, and several daily newspapers. Heather spent almost a dozen years at The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., where she spent most of her time covering the environment or writing project-investigations that provoked changes such as new laws related to day care and the protection of environmentally-sensitive lands. You can reach Heather at

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