Venezuela’s elders hold anti-government rally to protest suffering, shortages

World Today

Venezuela proves there is no age limit on outrage. Thousands of elderly rallied in Caracas for the “March of the Grandparents.” 

It is the latest in a wave of pro- and anti-government demonstrations.

CGTN’s Stephen Gibbs reports from Caracas. 

Venezuela’s elders hold anti-government rally to protest suffering, shortages

Venezuela proves there is no age limit on outrage. Thousands of elderly rallied in Caracas -- for the "March of the Grandparents." It is the latest in a wave of pro- and anti-government demonstrations.

On the city’s six-lane main thoroughfare, Avenida Libertador, a group of senior citizens, some carrying walking sticks, had blocked the street. They were banging stones and saucepans against a safety railing and shouting, in not-at-all frail voices, “this government is going to fall!”

This was the ‘grandparents’ march in the capital. The Venezuelan opposition has organized a handful of ‘themed’ marches alongside its main protests over the last six weeks; to maintain momentum inside the movement, and demonstrate that the complaints against the government of President Maduro are shared by many sectors of society. The ‘women’s march’, last weekend, attracted a crowd of hundreds of thousands.

This time there were perhaps a few thousand on the streets. Many younger protesters were mixed among the senior citizens. Some had come as family groups, as many as four generations all together.

As in all of the latest wave of opposition marches in Venezuela, the complaints against the government are both political and economic: that it is illegally attempting to over-rule the opposition-controlled national assembly, and that its policies are wreaking havoc on the economy.

“I have 12 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. I am still here struggling for my country” said Lourdes Parra, 77. President Maduro, she said, should “control prices and let us live in peace.”

Spiraling inflation, forecast by the IMF to soar above 2000 percent next year, is a particular complaint among Venezuela’s elderly. All have seen the value of their pensions nearly vanish. Despite a 60 percent hike by the government on May 1, Venezuelan state pensions are now worth barely US $4 a week, at the black market exchange rate.

Below the bridge, a truck of the National Guard was stuck in the traffic. “Murderers!” the pensioners shouted in unison. The National Guard is blamed by the opposition for most of the 38 deaths that have occurred in Venezuela, as protests gather pace. The government said the opposition is behind the violence, and is trying to provoke a civil war.

For many of the elderly participants on Friday’s march, this was their first street protest. Some wore gas masks, their grey hair tucked behind the rubber hoods. There was no tear gas this time, but individual national guardsmen were seen deploying pepper spray as one group of grandfathers tried to force its way through the security cordon.

As the afternoon rain began to fall, many gave up trying to reach the old centre of Caracas, where they had hoped to make their point in front of government offices.