Tired of protests, Venezuelans take politics to the beach

CATIA LA MAR, Venezuela Sun Mar 2, 2014 2:09pm EST

1 of 5. An anti-government protester holds up a sign as she poses for photographers during a march in Caracas March 2, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jorge Silva

Related Topics

CATIA LA MAR, Venezuela (Reuters) - Thousands of Venezuelans have escaped to the beach for the long Carnival weekend, heeding President Nicolas Maduro's call to leave behind nearly a month of anti-government protests.

But rather than leaving the inflamed partisan politics at home, many have brought it with them.

The small beach of La Morena, about 25 miles northeast of the capital Caracas, is packed.

While some take refreshing dips in the turquoise Caribbean waters, others relax with a beer. The smell of fried fish wafts in the air, and children roll in the sand.

But not even the reggaeton pop music blasting at full volume drowns out the discussions about inflation, violent crime, and the political differences that divide Venezuelans and have fed the unrest.

"We're never going to stop talking about this," said Carlos Rivero, a 32-year-old security guard with a shaved head and tattooed arms who was visiting from Caracas with his wife.

"Wherever you go, whether it's good or bad, people are always talking about politics."

Hoping to ease tensions after at least 17 people were killed in the country's worst unrest for a decade, Maduro extended the long Carnival weekend by declaring Thursday and Friday holidays too.

Since then, government officials have flooded social media with images of busy shores and happy holidaymakers, and state television has repeatedly reminded Venezuelans not to forget the traditional family break at the seaside.

"Nobody will be able to take Carnival away from us," said Tourism Minister Andres Izarra. "There's no fascist force that can stop the people from enjoying the happiness."

To help them on their way, new Chinese-made buses wait outside Metro stations to ferry Caracas residents to Catia la Mar and the beaches north of the city such as La Morena.

But even with their toes in the sand, Venezuelans remain divided. About half defend tooth-and-nail what they see as the poverty alleviation enjoyed under the self-styled revolution of the late Hugo Chavez, who died from cancer a year ago this week.

Others say they are sick of shortages of basic products such as milk and toilet paper, with the horrific levels of violent crime, and with annual inflation of 56 percent. And they say things have only got worse since Maduro took office.

In some municipalities with opposition mayors, official carnival activities were canceled.

"People come to the beach to de-stress a bit after all that tension we have in the capital," said Jose Luis Vazquez, a supermarket worker from Guarenas town to the east of Caracas, as he sat and drank a beer with his wife, watching the waves.

The problems tended to start, others said, when the sun set and it was time to pack up and pay the bill. "That's when things turn to politics," said Rivero, the security guard.

"Prices have gone up since the last time, and there's always someone who says that things weren't like this before."

Some of those who resisted temptation and stayed in Caracas responded to the government's Carnival campaign with irony. One group of opposition supporters set up a temporary 'beach' in Plaza Altamira, a square in an affluent eastern part of the city that has been the focus of their protests.

"There's no better beach than this," read a placard waved at pedestrians and drivers by one female demonstrator in a bikini.

(Additional reporting by Efrain Otero; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Phil Berlowitz)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
sabrefencer wrote:
while you all enjoy the beaches, your president plots with the Cubans, for your demise..only thing he will be swimming in, is many of your leaders blood..that is how, serious communist and socialists leaders, work….

Mar 02, 2014 12:35pm EST  --  Report as abuse
adrisu wrote:
I agree with you Sabrefencer, but this article is completely misguided and one-sided. The images of the demonstrations going on this weekend in Caracas and other cities are impressive, most of the people boycotted the carnival vacation to keep on protesting. I suggest the author and Reuters to do more research before publishing something like this, a slap in the face to millions of people fighting for freedom and many others working hard spreading the news to the world via social media. SOS Venezuela

Mar 02, 2014 3:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
DrJaguilar wrote:
NICOLAS MADURO IS AN EVIL DICTATOR AND Until now 14 people have died
because the government doesn’t accept the protests from the students and the
rest of the country that began Feb 12, 2014. The national guard and the civil
armed forces (criminal that work for the government) are killing,
torturing and attacking people for saying the truth. They have been in power
for the last 15 years lying and staying as rich and powerful as they can,
giving away our resources to Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Argentina, and Bolivia, meanwhile
our rich country is poorest than ever. There is no state of law, there is no
separation of public power and there is scarcity of basic things as milk,
butter, bread, oil, chicken, etc. and what is even worse they are
implementing Cuba’s policy, for instance, one chicken per week. Besides the
Cuban militia is infiltrated in our armed forces and other institutions, such
as hospitals, Passport and ID offices, airports, etc. Also we have very limited
access to TV and radio channels as more than 90% belong to the government,
social media is also at risk, as they shut it down when the most brutal attacks
against civilians are occurring. Finally more people has lost their
fear and are beginning to react, to speak up and people around the world
are beginning to listen. We don’t want any international intervention, all we
are looking for is to let the world know what we are going through and ask them
to raise their voices. The job is ours to finish with this terror regime.
Google it and see videos and photos that support my description. MADURO CAN NOT BE VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT BECAUSE HE WAS BORN IN COLOMBIA AND THE ASSASSIN NARCS TERRORIST OF RAUL AND FIDEL CASTRO HELPED HIM TO STOLE THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN VENEZUELA SO THE CASTRO CAN STOLE THE OIL FROM VENEZUELA. MADURO MUST RESIGN RIGHT NOW.

Mar 03, 2014 2:49am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Pictures