A version of this article originally appeared on VICE France.
This February marks the 20th anniversary of the Bolivarian Revolution that brought Hugo Chávez to power, but no one is celebrating in Venezuela. The country is embroiled in a political crisis: Sitting President Nicolas Maduro, who replaced Chávez in office after his death in 2013, has been ousted from power by Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly who declared himself interim President of Venezuela on January 23. Maduro was re-elected to a second six-year term in May 2018 despite reports of widespread electoral fraud. Guaidó’s claim to the presidency has the support of the US, Canada, the EU, and the majority of Venezuela’s neighboring countries.
Adding to this political turmoil is the grave socioeconomic crisis that has caused more than 3 million Venezuelans to flee the country since 2014, mainly to Brazil and Colombia. Those who remained have borne the brunt of hyperinflation and a growing shortage of basic provisions needed to survive, like food and medicine.
A young man on the expressway as the protests on February 12 began to wind down.
But in the wake of Guaidó’s announcement, hope has returned. The 35-year-old politician wants to bring down Maduro and all the systems he’s put in place. Since the end of January, Venezuelans have taken to the streets to call out the shortage of food and supplies, aggressive hyperinflation, and Maduro’s regime. The state's harsh response has resulted in arrests and deaths. The latest demonstrations occurred on Tuesday in several cities across the country to demand that humanitarian aid be allowed to enter the country. At present, they remain blocked by Maduro's forces at the borders.
At the front lines of these protests are the Venezuelan youth. With masked faces and Molotov cocktails in hand, they don’t balk when confronted directly by the police, who respond to the protesters with brutality.
Many kids are forced to live on the streets of Caracas due to extreme poverty and high crime rates, amongst other things.
The current regime may be living out its last weeks in power, driven out by the international community and pressure from the street.
Read on to see our photos from Caracas:
Venezuelans are very attached to their country's flag, and the days-long protests have been flooded with yellow and blue stars. The people have a deep respect for the institution that the flag represents, similar to how Americans view the stars and stripes.
A young demonstrator armed with a hammer. He was one of the more agitated figures we encountered that day, running in every direction and striking the pavement to create projectiles to use against the police, who in the past haven't hesitated to fire in return.
On the expressway that runs through Caracas, those who oppose Maduro freely express their joy. A wave of hope had washed over the public.
A young woman covers her face with the Venezuelan flag. Faced with increasing tensions and police repression, many protesters choose to hide their faces.
As soon as a truck passed, several young people stopped it, climbed up, and forced the driver out. The goal was to block the road completely, but some tried to siphon the tank for fuel, a rare commodity. Others opened up the trailer to see if there were any valuables worth looting.
A young protester with skin depigmentations, which can develop due to malnutrition and dire living conditions in the country.
A man holds two Molotov cocktails filled with gravel to make them even more dangerous.
A protester makes Molotov cocktails on the ground.
A masked protester.
Molotov cocktails in hand, a demonstrator looks off into the distance where National Police have barricaded the road.
A young boy holds a Molotov cocktail. Despite his age and the danger, he stands with the adults.
A demonstrator holds a rock, ready in the event of intervention from the National Police.
A young man masked with the Venezuelan flag stands tall, stones in hand, against the National Police.
A young man prepares a Molotov cocktail in the midst of journalists, photographers, and bikers.
Two police officers arrive on a motorcycle to break up the crowd. They shoot several rounds of live ammunition towards the sky, sparking fear amongst demonstrators and journalists.
A protester walks over a bill. The bolivar, Venezuela's national currency, is worth virtually nothing now. Some protesters throw them in the air during the processions.
A group of protesters blocks the highway that runs through Caracas, waiting for the police.
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