Venezuela's shield-bearing protesters inspired by Ukraine's revolt

24 PHOTOS
Venezuela's shield baring protestors
See Gallery
Venezuela's shield baring protestors
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield that depicts the Venezuelan Constitution and reads "Respect me" and "Defend me", poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 17, 2017. He said: "I protest because we want a better Venezuela and because Maduro has to leave. I protest because there are many people going hungry and many children living in the streets... Maduro wants to turn us into Cuba, but we are Venezuelans." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 17, 2017. He said: "I protest because this country is in misery and we want a better future for our children." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 17, 2017. He said: "I protest because before we had it all and now we have nothing. Because today we have to wake up very early to queue to be able to buy food. I live in a slum and we have lots of needs, we are going hungry." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield that reads "Aim to the", poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 17, 2017. He said: "I protest to have a better Venezuela... Because today most of the young people graduate and have no chance of fulfilling their goals in the country. Venezuelans don't want any more dictatorship or repression, we want freedom." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield that reads "No. Dictatorship. 350", poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 17, 2017. He said: "I protest for the freedom of the country." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield that reads "Aim to the", poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 17, 2017. He said: "I protest for a Venezuela in which my future children can grow in peace... without concerns over crime, where I can feed them and give them an education." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield, poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 27, 2017. He said: "I protest for a better country, for a better future and for us not to live in a dictatorship. I'm protesting so that my family can have a better future." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield, poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 27, 2017. He said: "I protest for my future, for the future of my country and so I can wake up tomorrow without any fighting or dictatorship". REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield that reads "Promise me you will come back tomorrow. Venezuela", poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 17, 2017. He said: "I protest for a better Venezuela, so that we can study, so that our children have a better future and for the freedom of everybody. Because we live in a dictatorship." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 17, 2017. He said: "I protest for a better future for my daughter and for a better Venezuela." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 17, 2017. He said: "I protest for freedom. I fight for freedom of speech." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela May 27, 2017. He said: "I protest because my brother no longer lives here in Venezuela. My father has cancer and I can't find his medicines... my mother is retired and the money is not even enough for food... we need to change this situation in Venezuela." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield, poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 27, 2017. He said: "I protest for a better country. I want a better future for me and my family." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a satellite TV antenna used as a shield poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 27, 2017. He said: "I protest for my country... we are the resistance and we are fighting for the world to understand that we live in a dictatorship. I fight for the beautiful Venezuela." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield that reads "A benediction for the students", poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 24, 2017. He said: "I am in the streets resisting because in this country we are living in a dictatorship and we want to have a better future for our children. Because food is not available, there are no jobs, no production of anything, we have high cost of living and insecurity." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield, poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 27, 2017. He said: "I protest because the situation that we have in Venezuela today is very complex, both politically and socially. I protest so that my brothers can have a better education." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 27, 2017. He said: "I protest because I am a young man and this government has not given me anything. I want to live well and this government has not allowed me to do so, I want to eat well, I want to dress well, but with the money I earn at work, I cannot afford it." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 27, 2017. He said: "I protest, because I want a better future for me and my family, because it hurts to get up every day and have my mother crying because there is nothing to eat at home. Because I know that if I've got to die here, I would die fighting for my country and not because I was shot by someone who wanted to steal my cell phone." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield and a knife poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 27, 2017. He said: "I protest because the situation is very tough and we are going hungry. We really need a change." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield and a tennis racket poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 27, 2017. He said: "I protest for the future of my country." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield that reads "Miraflores on fire", poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 24, 2017. She said: "I'm protesting because Venezuela is beautiful and it's sad that everyone has to go. I fight because I don't want to leave Venezuela, I want to grow here." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, May 27, 2017. He said: "I protest for freedom. I'm 18 and I'm not to be blamed for this, I never voted for Chavez or Maduro. I want to know that I can study and that I can aspire to something better. This regime has robbed us of everything, robbed us of the quality of life and opportunities, so that we have nothing more to do than be here to defend our rights." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A demonstrator holding a rudimentary shield that reads "Resist Venezuela" poses for a picture before a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 17, 2017. He said: "I protest because there are no medicines, because there are many people eating from the garbage and because many people are living on the streets." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

CARACAS (Reuters) - Drawing inspiration from Ukraine's 2013-14 revolt, Venezuela's young protesters are donning Viking-like shields in battles with security forces and eagerly watching a film on the Kiev uprising.

Foes of Venezuelan socialist President Nicolas Maduro are holding public showings of Netflix's "Winter on Fire" documentary about the three-month standoff in Ukraine that led to 100 deaths and the exit of then-president Viktor Yanukovich.

In Venezuela's anti-government unrest, where 80 people have died since April, youths bear colorfully decorated homemade shields akin to those used in Kiev's Maidan Square.

The young Venezuelans make their shields from satellite TV dishes, drain covers, barrels or any other scraps of wood and metal they can find. Some supporters also make and donate shields.

The protesters use the shields to form walls, or even beat on them in unison, as Roman soldiers and Norsemen used to do going into battle. Fellow demonstrators cheer as the self-styled "Resistance" members link arms to walk to the front lines and face off with National Guard troops and police.

"The shields don't stop bullets, but they do protect us from tear gas, rubber bullets and stones," said 20-year-old law student Brian Suarez, wearing a gas mask and carrying a shield depicting Maduro in the sights of a rifle target.

Other shields carry quotes and images of Venezuela's constitution, paintings and religious symbols, depictions of the faces of slain protesters, or slogans saying "SOS!", "No More Dictatorship!" or "Murderer, Maduro!"

While the protesters say they are fighting against tyranny in the South American oil producer, Maduro accuses them of seeking a violent coup with U.S. support.

Manuel Melo said he was on the front line of protests, hurling stones and protecting other marchers with his blue plastic shield, until one day he was caught by a water cannon. The 20-year-old graphic design student lost his kidney from the impact.

Nevertheless, he wants to go back.

"It's an important role being a shield-bearer because you know that everything they throw goes straight at you," he said while recovering from his home in Caracas. "I'm not out there because I like it, but for the common good."

"AM I IN UKRAINE?"

"Winter on Fire," by Russian director Evgeny Afineevsky, shows tens of thousands of Ukrainian protesters braving snow and baton attacks from riot police to barricade themselves in Maidan Square.

It has been discreetly shown around Venezuela, including at bookshops, a university, a public square and an arts cinema.

Forums and discussions are held afterward.

"Hearing a Ukrainian and seeing the tears in their eyes, you ask yourself: 'Hold on, am I in Ukraine or in Cafetal?'" said university professor Carlos Delgado, referring to an upper-class part of Caracas that has vigorously supported the protests.

Delgado, 48, recently participated in a screening and forum about "Winter on Fire" at Venezuela's Catholic University, where opposition to Maduro is also strong.

Many have also spread the word on social media.

"This documentary is unmissable," Venezuelan actress and author Ana Maria Simon exhorted on her Instagram account. "All Venezuelans should see it, especially those who are tired, especially those close to losing faith."

In both countries, protesters have opposed presidents they consider repressive, and the clashes turned increasingly violent. But differences abound, too.

While Ukraine's protesters endured freezing conditions day and night, Venezuela's thin out quickly when rain starts, and they go home in the evening and enjoy balmy Caribbean weather.

The Venezuelans point out that criminal gangs make the streets dangerous at night. And with their economy in meltdown, they are often short of medicine, food and other needs, whereas the Ukrainians had a good supply line.

Hans Wuerich, who became famous for stripping in front of an armored car with a Bible in Caracas, said "Winter on Fire" made him think Venezuela's Resistance needed to escalate tactics.

"It's time to take the protests to another level," the 27-year-old reporter said in Caracas' Altamira Square, a focus of the demonstrations. "But we need to be organized if we're going to take the streets day and night, if it's really about a point of no return."

(Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas, Matthias Williams and Alessandra Prentice in Kiev; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Lisa Von Ahn)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.