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After 2 Months, Protests In Venezuela Show No Sign Of Ebbing


The situation in Venezuela is deteriorating. Two months of anti-government protests have left more than 60 people dead, hundreds injured. Joining us now on the line from Caracas is Hannah Dreijer She's a reporter with The Associated Press. She is on the line via Skype.

Hannah, thanks for being with us.

HANNAH DREIER: Good to be with you.

MARTIN: So as I noted, protests have been happening there for weeks and weeks, months. Does - do the protests this week feel different in some way?

DREIER: I think what's surprising to everyone is that the protests are still going on. So they're still pretty violent. They're still very big. Lawmakers are still getting hurt. And young kids - 17-year-olds are still getting hurt almost every day. And everyone is asking how long this is going to go on. It really shows no sign of stopping.

MARTIN: On Monday, the leader of the opposition, Henrique Capriles, said that he was actually tear-gassed by police. What kind of reaction has that generated?

DREIER: That's right. And there are pictures of Capriles, who's become really the main opposition leader, being led away from a protest doubled over. His cheek is all bruised and red. He says he was hit by a policeman with the policeman's helmet.

And I think it means a lot to people to see not just Capriles, who's a governor, but also lawmakers, mayors out there on the frontlines every day. Capriles is in his 40s. A lot of these lawmakers are older people, and they're out there right with the young kids in the tear gas line. And what they say is they can't govern in a normal way; this is what they can do now.

MARTIN: So what do they want? I mean, anything short of removing the president, Maduro - would that appease them? Or is that - that is the only goal?

DREIER: At this point, that is really the goal. The sense here is that compromise is no longer an option. People have been struggling to feed themselves for years. They've been dealing with huge amounts of crime, no water, no electricity. And the feeling in the streets is it's time for a new president. It's time for a new government. And anything short of immediate presidential elections is not going to be enough this time around.

MARTIN: So what is Maduro saying through all of this? I mean, are there any indications that he hears the protesters, that he is taking into consideration their demands?

DREIER: Maduro calls the protesters terrorists and says that his role is to stop what's becoming a civil war here. And he's started doing this kind of strange thing where he drives around in a car at night and then posts the videos to his Twitter account, kind of to show that he's still out on the streets and he's not scared to go out there.

MARTIN: Videos of him...

DREIER: And...

MARTIN: ...Just driving around?

DREIER: Exactly. It's him driving around with the windows down. And sometimes there'll be graffiti in the background, like Maduro is a murderer. But he puts those videos up anyway.

And it does feel very chaotic here. There's burning trash in the street everywhere. Nobody can get around the city. There are young guys in masks closing down the streets. So Maduro's trying to say everything is normal, but it just does not feel normal right now.

MARTIN: Hannah Dreier is a reporter with The Associated Press, speaking to us from Caracas. She was on the line via Skype.

Hannah, thanks so much for your reporting this morning.

DREIER: Good to talk to you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.