Venezuelan Woman Hugs Soldier During Heartbreaking Mother’s Day Protest
Everyday citizens in Venezuela have taken on new ways of retaliating against the government.
Chaotic scenes of tear gas canisters hitting the pavement and of young, masked men rioting in colorful helmets have become common in the Venezuela over the past several weeks. For four long years, Venezuelans have seen their country — once a South American powerhouse — crumble at the hands of an alleged dictator. As inflation skyrockets and food and medicine become scarce, protests have become creative, desperate, and increasingly dangerous.
But on this past Mother’s Day, one brief moment crystallized the immense tragedies and split loyalties of the past several months.
During a protest, a woman celebrated the holiday by hugging a stern soldier in a line of security forces.
She was just one of the hundreds of Venezuelan mothers who peacefully took to the streets on Sunday to ask soldiers to stop defending President Maduro’s government.
Video shows protester try to hug soldier as Venezuelan women mark Mother's Day by asking soldiers to stop defending Maduro's government. pic.twitter.com/7YqWnJYVIm— ABC News (@ABC) May 15, 2017
Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro spoke out against the “repression” in a video last month, blaming the government of beating unarmed protesters and air-dropping dangerous tear gas bombs.
"Day after day, the repression worsens in Venezuela," Almagro said. "It is authoritarian to repress protesters who call for democracy."
During Sunday’s protest, many mothers held up Venezuelan flags, while others were seen pleading and shaking their fingers at soldiers. One sign read: “Venezuelan mothers mourn the death of their children, who died because of this disastrous regime.”
In all, 39 people have died in the unrest this past month, including protesters, government sympathizers, bystanders, and security forces. According to Venezuela’s attorney general’s office, more than 750 have been injured. The death toll could be much higher when accounting for the rising violence that has swept through the country.
And yet, among protesters a love of country persists.
Last week, a haunting video captured one young violinist walked into a cloud of tear gas playing the national anthem.
“There he was, standing, playing the Venezuelan anthem, and with a couple of kids that were around him, sort of protecting him,” local journalist Ivan Ernesto Reyes told CNN. “There were bombs, tear gas, and repression, but he kept playing his violin. He did not stop.”
Hoy vi una verdadera muestra de realismo mágico. Un manifestante tocaba su violín mientras la PNB lanzaba lacrimógenas y perdigones pic.twitter.com/Xhg7NNBkX8— Iván Ernesto Reyes (@IvanEReyes) May 8, 2017
Only a few days before, another violinist was killed during a violent crossfire on Caracas’ Francisco Fajardo highway. The teenager, Armando Cañizales, played in Venezuela’s popular youth music program, El Sistema.
Moments before the bullet struck Cañizales, his friend Maru Gonzalez remembered exchanging a few words with him.
“We told him, ‘Let’s go back,’” she told CNN. “And he didn’t want to. He told us, ‘I will stay here, fighting for my country.’”