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Protests Against President Maduro In Venezuela Near Breaking Point

RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

A different kind of march happened in Venezuela today. Hundreds of people took to the streets dressed in white to honor those killed in anti-government protests over the past month. Venezuelans have been demonstrating in and around Caracas, protesting President Nicolas Maduro's government. Over the past few years, the nation has fallen into a deep economic recession with massive food and medicine shortages. To get a sense of what's happening on the ground today we reached Girish Gupta, Reuters reporter, and I asked him about today's march.

GIRISH GUPTA: Today it's been a little bit calmer than the last couple of weeks, people marching and essentially celebrating the lives of or mourning the people who died over the last couple of weeks in these protests. We've seen, I think, 12 deaths and another eight people were electrocuted earlier this week in some looting. It's just demonstrating the level of chaos there is in this country. Of course, the bigger picture is that 60 people die in Venezuela every single day.

SUAREZ: Until quite recently, a lot of the reporting that was coming out of Venezuela was a kind of tribute to the creativity, the resilience, the coping skills of everyday Venezuelans. From what you're saying it sounds like we're beyond that, that we're reaching a kind of breaking point.

GUPTA: We are. And I think we have been for this year definitely. I mean, yes, we've heard lots of nice stories about how people are getting by, trying to use creative means, you know, using bitcoin even to get past these currency controls, which a lot of people blame for this crisis. That and, of course, the lack of oil dollars coming in. However, things are really, really tough now. If you're not eating properly, if you're really struggling - I mean, you know, I said this earlier this week in a story that $1,000 - if you saved up a $1,000 when Nicolas Maduro came to power back in 2013 it'd now be worth $5.

SUAREZ: Girish, with the crisis deepening and the conflict escalating, what's next for Venezuela?

GUPTA: What's next is the big, big question I've been wanting to answer for years. I think every year for the past three or four years I would have said this has got to collapse this year because the numbers do not add up. There's not enough money coming in, oil prices aren't high enough and people aren't eating properly. And every year it gets worse and worse. So in a sense, I want to say the same thing again. It's got to collapse this year because nothing adds up.

However, it probably won't. Things will keep going on. People will just earn less every every month. It will - you know, the currency will be worth less every week and so on. The question is, you know, what we really need to see from the opposition if they want to - want to really control the streets is getting the poorest people out. Now, frankly, the poorest people are stood in line all day for six, seven, eight hours every single day looking for things like rice and chicken. They're not eating properly, as I mentioned earlier.

So they - do they really want to put themselves in danger and not eat, and not get the food they need by going out to these protests? Probably not. So what's it going to take to get them out? Because as we saw in sort of the Middle East and the Arab Spring and so on, that's what can change governments.

SUAREZ: That was Girish Gupta from Reuters speaking to us from Caracas, Venezuela. Thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.