In the past weeks, mass protests have been swelling in Venezuela, Ukraine, and Thailand, sparking discussions among world political leaders over the rights of protestors and the nature of political dissent. The world is watching as three different countries in three very different parts of the world struggle with opposition between government and civilian groups, and as the protests escalate from peaceful demonstrations to bloody clashes that verge on all-out battle. Here is the run-down on what’s happening in each of these three countries.
In Venezuela, at least 4 people were killed and many more injured as government forces pushed back against protestors in the capital city of Caracas on February 12th. Anti-government protestors are part of a movement led by Leopoldo López, leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, who has long been a proponent of grass roots political reform in the country. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2013-2014, Venezuela is the number three economy most damaged by violence. The country currently has the highest inflation rate in the world, at 56.2%. Protestors are calling for the ousting of President Nicolas Madura, who was elected after the death of Hugo Chavez in April, 2013. Rallies have been held both in opposition to and in support of the Madura government. The government has arrested many protesters and is holding them in custody, along with López, who turned himself in to the police on February 18th.
In the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, protesters took to the streets in November in response to President Viktor Yanukovych backing out of a trade deal with Europe in favor of closer ties with Russia. Protests have spread to other cities in Ukraine, but Kiev remains the center of conflict. Many demonstrators have been camping out in Independence Square in Kiev for months, determined to see the conflict through. On February 18th, after parliament refused to pass a law limiting the president’s powers, protests surged and security forces took steps to quell them, resulting in violent clashes that left at least 25 dead and hundreds wounded. Violence came from both sides of the struggle, with deaths and injuries on the side of the protesters as well as the security forces. Protesters set fire to buildings, including the headquarters of the ruling Party of Regions. The opposition headquarters, the Trade Union House, was also set afire and Independence Square resembled a battle scene on the morning of February 19th.
Although Yanukovych and opposition leaders sat down to a truce on February 19th, fresh fighting broke out in Independence Square on February 20th between protesters and police. News outlets are reporting up to 100 deaths in these clashes. The renewed uprising led to an extra-legal parliamentary takeover, after which Yanukovych fled the city. Parliament set up an interim government and announced presidential elections in May. Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko announced that he would be on the ballot for the May elections. Ukraine’s new government announced on February 24th that Yanukovych would be tried for mass murder charges in connection with the deaths of protesters during clashes with police, but he remains on the run. Meanwhile, the newly formed government of Ukraine is scrambling to avoid economic default, entreating the United States and European Union to pull together as much as $35 billion to get the country back on its feet. The next weeks will be critical for the fresh leadership in Ukraine to avoid economic collapse and unite the differing opinions of a still-uncertain new government.
In Bangkok, Thailand, protesters have been camped out since November calling for the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the implementation of an unelected “people’s council” to push through reforms. On February 18th, after Yingluck expanded the powers of police to disband protesters, attempts to clear protesters from government buildings in Bangkok led to violent clashes between police and protesters. Five people were killed during this standoff, as both police and protesters fired guns. Witnesses claim that protesters threw a grenade at police, injuring several. Thai authorities estimate that 15,000 people are involved in the protests, and nearly 200 protesters have been arrested.
Stay informed on these important events! The following sources will get you up to speed:
General Reference Resources
CIA World Factbook - provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities.
EIU Country Intelligence: Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) Country Intelligence provides users with reports and analysis about political, business and economic issues by country, category and subject.
In Venezuela, Protest Ranks Grow Broader – New York Times
Venezuela’s Maduro Holds Mass Rally to Reject Violence as Protests Continue. - Venezuelanalysis.com
Ukraine crisis: Vitali Klitschko says he will run for presidency – The Independent
EU, U.S. Scramble to Pull Together Aid for Ukraine – The Wall Street Journal
Thai protests end in violence and deaths – Al Jazeera
Scholarly Articles (Full text available through UIUC E-Journals)
Denis, R. (2012). The Birth of an “Other Politics” in Venezuela. South Atlantic Quarterly, 111(1), 81-93.
Jefferson, A. (2013). Venezuela’s Bolivarian Democracy: Participation, Politics, and Culture under Chávez. Latin Americanist, 57(3), 108-110.
Kingsbury, Donald. (2013). Between Multitude and Pueblo: Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution and the Government of Un-governability. New Political Science, 35(4), 567-585.
Nadeau, Richard; Bélanger, Éric; Didier, Thomas. (2013). The Chávez vote and the national economy in Venezuela. Electoral Studies, 32(3), pp. 482-488.
Antoaneta Dimitrova & Rilka Dragneva (2013) Shaping Convergence with the EU in Foreign Policy and State Aid in Post-Orange Ukraine: Weak External Incentives, Powerful VetoPlayers, Europe-Asia Studies, 65:4, 658-681.
Dimitrova A, Dragneva R. Shaping Convergence with the EU in Foreign Policy and State Aid in Post-Orange Ukraine: Weak External Incentives, Powerful Veto Players. Europe-Asia Studies [serial online]. June 2013;65(4):658-681.
Paul Chambers (2013). Military “Shadows” in Thailand Since the 2006 Coup. Asian Affairs: An American Review, 40:2, 67-82.
Sinpeng, A., & Martinez Kuhonta, E. (2012). From the Street to the Ballot Box: The July 2011 Elections and the Rise of Social Movements in Thailand. Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal Of International & Strategic Affairs, 34(3), 389-415.
Taylor, J. (2012). Remembrance and Tragedy: Understanding Thailand’s “Red Shirt” Social Movement. SOJOURN: Journal Of Social Issues In Southeast Asia, 27(1), 120-152.