Blowing horns and chanting slogans, protesters gather outside a Caracas subway station. They plan to march to the National Electoral Council to demand that authorities hold a recall election. But it’s a sparse crowd. Shortly before the protest began, officials loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro shut down subway stations in this part of the city. University student Daniel Barrios insists this was done to disrupt the march. “The government is always trying to make us look small,” he says. “You can see here the subway, and you can see the station’s closed. And that’s a predicament, because they need to take the subway to come to these types of demonstrations.”
Venezuelans are furious about food shortages and out-of-control inflation. The crisis has melted popular support for Maduro. Polls now show that 70 percent of Venezuelans want him to go. Opposition leaders hope to make that happen by way of a recall election. But the Maduro government is playing hardball to block this effort.
People claim that Maduro is ruining the country. But many have no time to march, because they have to stand in line at state-run supermarkets in hopes of buying scarce items, like milk and chicken, says Barrios.
There’s also a fear factor: More than 40 people were killed during anti-government protests in 2014. “So, you know, people [are] actually scared of going onto the streets because they, you know: ‘I could get shot just for waving a flag!'” Barrios says.