The late Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chávez seems to have run out of admirers in his birthplace of Sabaneta, in the state of Barinas.
Following an electrical outage on Wednesday night, which is becoming a frequent occurence in the oil-rich nation, his former supporters took out their frustration on a statue bearing the likeness of their former leader: they set the statue on fire.
On Thursday before dawn, a group of angry neighbors burned tires at the foot of the monument, threw stones and other incendiary devices. The protest lasted several days as residents complained of blackouts and limited food supplies.
The bronze and granite statue was a gift by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Two years ago, he commissioned sculptor Sergey Kazantzev to carve a 20-foot-high homage to the deceased leader. The monument portrays Chávez standing with his left fist held high in the air. It was installed in the former Plaza del Estudiante in Sabaneta, which supporters of the regime consider the “cradle of the revolution.”
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Witnesses told the Reuters news agency that after the burning incident, National Guard soliders were summoned to the town to prevent vandalism.
Since Chávez’s death in 2013, there have been several attacks against symbols of the former regime. Last June, a group of protesters teared down a statue of the deceased former president in the city of Villa del Rosario, in the oil state of Zulia.
The fact that the most recent act occurred in Chávez’s hometown caused a stir on social media.
“#Barinas rebels, Venezuela will be liberated,” one opposition group Vente Barinas posted on Twitter. The group is affiliated with Vente Venezuela, a political movement headed by opposition leader María Corina Machado.
The brother of the former ruler, Argenis Chávez, current governor of Barinas, came out in defense of the family legacy.
“Although they attacked your statue, they will never attack the heart of a people who carry you deep insiden,” Argenis Chávez posted on Twitter in reference to his brother. “You live and will live forever in the smile of every child, youth, woman and man. The vandalic right will never again make this country bow down because we a homeland.”