Pots or fireworks? The symbols of Venezuela's political divide

CARACAS Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:43pm EDT

1 of 2. Supporters of opposition leader Henrique Capriles hit pots and pans while taking part in a demonstration for a recount of the votes in Sunday's election in Caracas, April 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Split down the middle over an acrimonious election, Venezuelans are squaring off en masse every night at 8 p.m. on the dot in a cacophony of noise from rival factions.

Supporters of opposition leader Henrique Capriles bang pots and pans in a traditional form of protest used in some Latin American nations in times of political crisis.

"Let's show our anger with pots, not with our Venezuelan brothers," said Capriles, urging followers to stay peaceful as they demand a recount of a vote that gave a narrow win to Nicolas Maduro, protégé of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

On the other side, government supporters launch fireworks into the night sky to try and drown out the "cacerolazo," as the opposition protest is known for the Spanish word for stew pot.

At the designated time, Maduro backers also play recordings of Chavez singing nationalistic anthems at full volume, and songs by the revolutionary folk singer Ali Primera.

"Music, lots of music, and fireworks into the sky at 8 p.m.," Maduro said in a speech. "If they are calling for a 'cacerolazo' of hate and intolerance, then we call for a great Bolivarian fireworks party."

Maduro, who like his mentor Chavez takes inspiration from Venezuela's independence hero Simon Bolivar, says opposition leaders are planning a coup against him.

Election authorities gave him a slim victory with 50.8 percent of votes in Sunday's ballot, against Capriles' 49.0 percent. Maduro is to be sworn in on Friday.

The nightly noise, which rocks Caracas and other cities for half an hour or more, symbolizes the bitter division of the nation of 29 million that became deeply polarized under Chavez.

As well as banging pots or launching fireworks, residents also scream insults into the night from apartment windows, and honk car horns in the street.

"Maduro, you're illegitimate! You're a thief!" residents shouted from the balconies of an apartment building in Caracas' upscale Sebucan district on Tuesday night. Children appeared alongside the grownups in some balconies and windows to bang pots and pans.

The raucous, competing demonstrations recall the most turbulent times of Venezuela's recent history, including the months before a 2002 putsch against Chavez when the city shook with noise every time he took to the airwaves.

Chavez died last month of cancer, and had named Maduro as his preferred heir.

Government supporters sneered at the opposition protests as a feeble showing by Venezuela's wealthy elite.

"They're simply damaging their expensive pots, that's all!" said Gloria Torres, 51, a community activist in Caracas' largest slum, Petare.

"This is a war of the classes, those who support the loser are mainly rich folk out in their new cars, while the real people are out supporting Maduro," said Eduardo Bravo, 23, a government supporter in eastern Anzoategui.

(Additional reporting by Girish Gupta, Editing by Daniel Wallis and Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (7)
Andreina wrote:
Only “rich” with Capriles and “real” people with Maduro? That man has not gone into the most humble zones of every city and state.

One of the things I hated the most about Chavez’s government was that clasist speech, and made his followers believe that the rich are the opposition and he is the one sided with the poor which is t
untrue because there are millions of non-rich people who differed from him and Chavez and his circle didn’t (and still don’t) live in a quite humble environment. They have planes, apartments in Miami, huge cars, expensive clothing and a tremendous wealth product of stealing the people’s money that came through oil revenue.

Apr 17, 2013 9:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
boonteetan wrote:
Maduro’s dubious victory has incurred the wrath of his opposition. Expect more trouble in the oil rich nation. Meantime, the neighbors are watching the unfolding chaotic scenario carefully. (ttm1943)

Apr 17, 2013 10:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
PatriciaB wrote:
If there is any true to the elections results close to a 50/50, then it is pretty obvious that such “war of the classes” to support a political party doesn’t exist anymore or it is in an evident and rapid decline. For the government’s supporters to say that the protests are weak and come only from the wealthy, shows only their disconnection with reality and that they are hanging on to an outdated idea that was once instilled when Chavez capitalized their support due to previous governments’ lack of attention to the poor. Maduro and the government are blinded with money and power, and by not recognizing their loss of supporters and that there is not a significant majority anymore they are creating chaos and frustration not only on higher classes but to their own dissapointed and deceived base. Maduro wants and needs to recreate the tragic events from 2002 to promote a coup against him not only to validate his Presidency to the world and international viewers but to silence Capriles imprisoning him with the blame of such chaos when he didn’t accept the results of a flawed electoral process.

Apr 18, 2013 1:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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