From Fury to Flames: A Primer to Protests in Ukraine, Venezuela and Thailand

Protest World

Demonstrators pack public squares. Flames shoot into the air. Tear gas sends crowds scrambling. Bodies are carried from the streets. Dramatic scenes are unfolding during anti-government protests in three disparate countries this week, on three different continents: Ukraine, Venezuela and Thailand. Below is a cheat-sheet guide to the three protests, including the latest developments.

Protests began in November 2013, when President Viktor Yanukovych did a U-turn over a trade pact with the European Union that had been years in the making — with Yanukovych favoring closer relations with Russia over closer ties with Europe. An opposition coalition has been leading the charge against Yanukovych and his allies. Long-simmering tensions exploded anew in Ukraine on Tuesday as clashes between police and anti-government protesters left more than 25 people dead and the capital’s central square on fire. Foreign ministers from Germany, France and Poland met with Yanukovych on Thursday and are to meet with opposition leaders too. European foreign ministers convened an emergency meeting in Brussels, Belgium, where they are considering sanctions against Ukraine. Yanukovych meanwhile appeared to be losing power by the hour. He decamped from Kiev to Kharkiv, a city in his support base in eastern Ukraine, while protesters took control of the presidential administration building.

The Lastest: On February 22, Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov named interim president Former. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison after 2 1/2 years in captivity. She appeared in a wheelchair before a crowd of approximately 50,000 gathered at the protesters’ encampment in Ukraine’s capital Kiev hours after her release. Tymoshenko called protesters heroes and urged them to keep occupying the square. Turchynov’s interim appointment and Tymoshenko’s release from prison are the latest stunning development in the fast-moving Ukrainian political crisis.

Protests began on 12 February 2014 and grew after three people were killed. The demonstrators are fueled by discontent over runaway violent crime, a stalled economy, shortage of goods, government pressure on the news media, lack of free speech, and other issues. Many demonstrators across the country are students. Prominent opposition politicians have also led protests and joined marches. They blame Venezuela’s government, led by President Nicolás Maduro, for those problems. Maduro and other officials blame the opposition for the country’s security and economic problems. 

On February 17, Venezuela ordered three American Embassy officials to leave the country, saying they had been recruiting students to take part in violent anti-government protests, in the latest in a series of expulsions that have marked a low point in relations between the two countries.

The Latest: Leopoldo López, a prominent Venezuelan opposition leader, surrendered to the authorities on Tuesday (Feb 18) in the midst of a large crowd of supporters who tried to block his arrest on accusations that he was responsible for violence that erupted during recent anti-government protests. Lopez has denied the charges. Maduro, meanwhile, has called members of the opposition fascists and compared them to an infection that needs to be cured.

Protests began in November 2013 after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government tried to pass an amnesty bill that would have paved the way for her brother’s return to the political fray. Protesters allege Shinawatra is a puppet of her billionaire brother, the deposed, exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The demonstrations are being led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Thai deputy prime minister who resigned from the opposition Democrat Party to lead the rallies.

The protesters – who tend to be urban elites and middle-class voters – are united by their opposition to Mr Thaksin, and their belief that he is still controlling the current Pheu Thai government. Thaksin-allied parties have won the last five elections, because of their rural support base. The protesters want to replace Yingluck’s government with an unelected “people’s council” to see through electoral and political changes. Deadly violence erupted in the heart of Bangkok throughout the week as anti-government protesters clashed with police. And the country’s anti-corruption commission filed charges against the Prime Minister over a rice subsidy scheme that has left hundreds of farmers, her natural backers, unpaid.

The Latest: On February 23, a bomb killed two people and wounded at least 22 in a busy shopping district of the Thai capital on Sunday, hours after supporters of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra promised to get tough with demonstrators paralyzing parts of the city. But it was not immediately clear who was responsible.


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