| CARACAS, March 2
CARACAS, March 2 Venezuela's political
opposition reveled in cautious messages of solidarity from movie
stars at Sunday's Academy Awards after an intense Twitter
campaign calling on Hollywood's top actors to boost the profile
of anti-government protests.
Critics of President Nicolas Maduro cheered comments by
Jared Leto during his acceptance speech for best supporting
actor, as well as tweets from Kevin Spacey and Forest Whitaker
on the right to demonstrate.
"To all the dreamers out there around the world watching
this tonight, in places like the Ukraine and Venezuela, I want
to say 'we are here'," Leto said. "And as you struggle to make
your dreams happen, to live the impossible, we're thinking of
Parts of eastern Caracas, which includes some of the
capital's most affluent neighborhoods, broke into applause
during his speech.
Unrest has killed at least 17 people since a Feb. 12 march
turned violent, with rock-throwing protesters clashing almost
every day with troops lobbing tear gas.
Critics accused the government of a brutal crackdown on the
protests, which Maduro has called acts of vandalism that have
put lives at risk and disrupted public order in an attempt to
force him from power. (Full coverage: )
"Thank you @JaredLeto we'll never stop dreaming," wrote one
enthused tweeter, including the hashtags #OscarsForVenezuela and
Opposition supporters among Venezuela's famously avid
tweeters had for days been pressing Hollywood stars to speak out
during the ceremony.
Whitaker said in a Twitter message that he was "deeply
saddened by the violence in #Venezuela. Everybody has the right
to have their voice heard."
Spacey wrote: "Venezuela don't give up, everybody has the
right to express themselves! #SOSVenezuela #PrayForVenezuela."
None directly mentioned Maduro.
Venezuela's popular mock news website The Bipolar Capybara,
which needles both sides of the country's bitter political
divide, chortled at the importance given to the messages from
the Academy Awards.
"What happens at the Oscars could define the future of this
Republic for the next 50 years," it wrote.
"Hollywood, don't let us down."
The protests so far show no signs of ousting Maduro or
forcing him to resign. Opposition leaders insist they will stay
in the streets until he does.
(Additional reporting by Esteban Israel; Editing by Daniel
Wallis and Eric Walsh)