Venezuela’s protests are gaining in numbers and momentum. What began in early February as a few localized protests on remote progressive student campuses has now spread to Venezuela’s capital, uniting citizens of all political stripes who are fed up with the country’s soaring crime rate, mounting inflation, and rampant shortages. The regime has responded to the protests with steadily increasing brutality, but, paradoxically, this only seems to have encouraged more people to join the ranks of protestors. The murder of Genesis Carmona, a beauty queen who was among the demonstrators, has sent more people into the streets. As a result, what began as a small, elite-driven student protest has turned into the country’s most significant unrest in a decade. The protesters have created a public uproar over the regime’s brutal antics, and in so doing, have made oppression backfire. (In the photo above, a protester returns a tear gas canister back to the Venezuelan riot police.)
Venezuela is not alone. Contemporary people-power movements in countries as diverse as Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, and Ukraine have exhibited a surprising ability to withstand and capitalize on oppression by using their opponents’ outsized power and growing brutality to their own advantage. They have shown us that governments cannot get away with violence without risking the loss of key public support.