1. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets on Saturday in massive anti-government marches, as the death toll rose to eight and nationwide protests against President Nicolas Maduro continued into their tenth day.
2. Protestors gathered in Caracas for what the opposition dubbed “marches for peace,” and demanded that Maduro disarm armed vigilantes, whom they accuse of targeting civilians from motorbikes and blame for the uprising’s increase in violence.
Former President Hugo Chavez admitted prior to his death last march that he had provided paramilitary militias with firearms to protect his revolutionary aims.
3. Smaller scale solidarity protests were also held Saturday in cities around the world and shared via #SOSVenezuela. Meanwhile, thousands of Maduro supporters, mainly women wearing red, held a smaller march “against fascism” in another area of Caracas.
4. The current unrest and calls for Maduro’s resignation follow weeks of sporadic protests across the country led by students and opposition activists frustrated with his failure to stem inflation, crime, and product shortages.
5. On Friday, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, imprisoned since last week, called on Venezuelans from jail to continue to demonstrate. He is one of an unknown number of Venezuelans arrested in recent weeks.
6. In response to the protests, Maduro’s government has reportedly increased internet and media censorship. On Friday, the government threatened to withhold gas supplied to areas of unrest.
On Feb. 14, Twitter users in Venezuela reported that twitter photos had been blocked.
7. Venezuela has one of the world’s highest murder and inflation rates. Saturday’s largely peaceful protests were a break from increasingly violent police battles with opposition. Maduro has dismissed opponets as “fascists” and accused the U.S. of meddling.
8. Last week, Marudo expelled three U.S. diplomats accused of meeting with violent groups associated with the opposition. In a surprise statement Friday night, Maduro called for a dialogue with Obama to settle differences and “put the truth on the table.”
Some media headlines described Marudo’s remarks as a plea for help, while others conveyed it as a threat.