“They nearly lynched him, just because he shouted out that he was a ‘Chavista,’” President Nicolas Maduro explained the nearly fatal events that took place in east Caracas, Venezuela. Chavistas are followers of the idea of Chavismo, also known as the “cult of Chávez”—in reference to the followers of late President Hugo Chávez.
This past weekend, a 100 person-strong, anti-Maduro protest took place on Saturday (May 20). The self-appointed Chavista in question was “set on fire, beaten up, stabbed” because of his proclaimed political stance. The Huffington Post reports that some believed the man should die, but others assisted the man in a successful attempt to assure his survival. The 21-year-old man, Orlando Figuera, was treated with severe burns. A Reuters photographer attests that the crowd “accused the man of being a thief.”
President Maduro took to his weekly television program on state broadcasting to address the event.
“Burning a person because he seems a Chavista is a hate crime and a crime against humanity,” Maduro continues, “Venezuela is facing… a coup movement that has turned into hatred and intolerance, very similar to Nazi fascism.”
President Maduro relayed video footage of the incident involving Figuera and another of a person being beat up, accompanied by images of protesters throwing Molotov cocktails—bottle bombs. Maduro denotes this behavior to the U.S.-assisted, anti-Maduro protesters who, he claims, are “increasingly persecuting ‘Chavistas’ at home and abroad.”
The opposition against the Venezuelan president claims Maduro has “become a dictator, wrecked the OPEC nation’s economy, caused desperation by thwarting an electoral exit to the political crisis, and unleashed repression and torture on protesters.” These Maduro antagonists demand a national vote. Although they have majority support at the moment, authorities aren’t backing down. Last year, they blocked a push for a referendum, delayed state elections and are fighting against calls to bring forward the next presidential election set for late 2019.
Until a resolution is achieved, there’s no telling what the fate of the Chavistas and “Maduro Murderer!” decorated walls of Caracas will be.