HAVANA TIMES — In a growing demonstration of intolerance of public protests that don’t come from their governing parties, the administrations in Venezuela and Nicaragua both sent out the riot police on Saturday to impede the passing of International Women’s Day marches.
In Venezuela the hundreds of women marching from the outskirts of the capital towards downtown Caracas met a wall of riot police and soldiers with armored vehicles, reported dpa news.
The women, who oppose the government of Nicolas Maduro, called for an end to the shortages of basic products that has worsened in the oil rich country during recent months.
Jorge Rodriguez, the mayor of central and western Caracas said “fascism will not enter this city of peace.” President Maduro and his top officials call “fascist” any person or group that opposes his government’s policies. He also blames the United States for being behind the current and past protests.
The march was organized by the opposition Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) in an effort to keep alive the wave of protests that have swept parts of the country during the last more than three weeks, noted dpa.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles appeared at the march, blocked from its goal of reaching the Food Ministry, he said the display of the military against the march was evidence of the fear President Maduro has of peaceful protest.
Capriles held Maduro and his economic policies responsible for the shortages and the inflation that reached 56% over the last year.
“Instead of listening to Venezuelans, he sends officers and paramilitary groups to break up the protests. The biggest mistake a government can make is to underestimate what’s happening in the streets” said Capriles. He accused the government of “throwing more gasoline on the fire” noting that the protests “are not going to end with repression.”
The traditional International Women’s Day march in Nicaragua concluded short of its final goal on Saturday blocked by the riot police of the government of Daniel Ortega.
A block away Ortega youth supporters were assembled by the governing FSLN party for what could have been a confrontation with the women’s parade that did not occur.
The women of all ages and from around the country had converged in a festive atmosphere on Managua to celebrate women’s advances and make demands on the government on still pending issues, noted the El Nuevo Diario daily.
“They didn’t let us exercise our right, and besides we had a permit,” said Mirna Blandon of the Feminist Movement of Nicaragua.
A top police officer, Fernando Borge, would only say “the police does what’s established in the law and every organization knows the conditions, reach and limits” of the permit they were given.
Blandon countered: “This was a joint effort of all the women, we came to joyfully celebrate our accomplishments and also make our demands,” but weren’t allowed to pass the police wall.
The positive laws approved in recent years that protect women, and that “wouldn’t have been possible without the sustained pressure from the feminist movement,” are the Law of Responsible Parents and the Integral Law that condemns Violence against Women, noted Blandon.
Among the pending issues the women demand policies that promote the sexual and reproductive rights of women and that are conducive to avoiding the violence that this year has already led to 18 murders of women.
“We are demanding a country without violence,” said Maria López.
Likewise, Juanita Jimenez of the Autonomous Women’s Movement (MAM) told El Nuevo Diario that the high unemployment among women has regrettably led to extremely high levels of emigration of women from their communities and the country because a lack of job options.
Another serious problem mentioned by Jimenez is regarding the rising level of teenage pregnancies “which means sexual abuse is part of everyday life and it means the forced pregnancy of girls as young as 10 years old.”
In Nicaragua, even such young victims are forced to give birth independent of the health risks involved. Any type of abortion is illegal and the girl and the doctor punshed by law if the pregnancy is interrupted. Such a policy dates back to 2006 and has been maintained by the Ortega government with close ties to the Catholic Church.