Protests have exploded across Venezuela in recent days as citizens gather to demonstrate against the government's heavy-handed police tactics, its crackdown on political dissent, and the economic woes that have led to inflation and shortages of basic goods. These photos show just how large those protests have become — and the scale of the government crackdown they provoked, which this week led to the death of a 14-year-old boy during an anti-government rally.
The economic roots of the crisis
Large-scale protests began in 2014, and have continued since then. The falling price of oil, combined with longer-term economic problems, has crippled Venezuela's economy, fueling the political crisis. The country is now suffering from rampant inflation, as well as shortages of basic goods ranging from food to auto parts.
The February 19 arrest of a popular opposition politician inflamed the protests
President Maduro now has only a 20 percent approval rating, and has responded with a series of harsh crackdowns on political dissent, including arrests of opposition politicians. Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, a prominent critic of President Nicolás Maduro, was arrested on February 19 on charges of plotting an American-backed coup against the government. His detention sparked another round of major demonstrations in Caracas, adding to the unrest that has been increasing since early 2014.
Police shot and killed a 14-year-old boy on Tuesday, sparking further protests
Protests have flared again this week after 14-year-old Kluiverth Roa was shot dead by police during an anti-government rally on Tuesday in the city of San Cristobal. Demonstrators gathered in Caracas and elsewhere to protest Roa's death, though the worst unrest was in San Cristobal, where protesters gathered at Roa's public funeral.