“They have gas, we have excrement,” read a message that floated around social media advertising Wednesday’s “La Marcha de la Mierda” — or “Shit March” — in several cities throughout Venezuela.
“Let’s arm ourselves!” read the call to join the protests, heralding the right-wing opposition deployment of a new “shittier” weapon after more than a month of nearly-daily protests aimed at ousting the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro: “poopootov cocktails.” Dubbed for their likeness to Molotov cocktails, the poopootovs are plastic bottles filled with human feces and water. Images circulated on social media have shown some of the containers inscribed with messages like “with love.”
According to El Pais, the fetid weapon first debuted in the city of Los Teques, a few miles from Caracas, over the weekend. As the opposition called on Monday for escalated protests throughout the country this week to protest Maduro’s call for a constituent assembly, the poopootovs were also launched during demonstrations in the cities of San Cristobal, Merida, Valencia and Caracas.
In Los Teques, officers from the National Guard, the target of the attack, began vomiting as they ducked for cover.
Protesters have been sending messages through Whatsapp, instructing one another as how best to construct the fecal matter contraption. Many, however, are raising concern the poopootov cocktails could raise the risk of spreading infectious diseases.
On International Worker’s Day, May 1, Maduro called for the creation of a national constituent assembly with the goal of easing the ongoing political tensions and supporting dialogue with the opposition, especially as a new volley of protests intent on ousting the government began last month.
Maduro invoked article 347 of the Bolivarian Constitution, which allows for the convening of a national constituent assembly with the purpose of “transforming the state.”
That constitution, which was rewritten in 1999 by former President Hugo Chavez, is widely regarded as one of the most progressive in the world. Not only does it enshrine social rights to citizens, it also creates space for citizens to directly intervene in political decision-making outside of elections.
Despite having previously called for a constituent assembly, the opposition has rejected the call and begun a fresh wave of protests. Their right-wing leaders say that the intention of the constitutional process called by Maduro is to delay regional and municipal elections, which are slated for this year.
Still, 17 Venezuelan opposition parties met with the government this week to discuss the assembly, although right-wing parties in the opposition MUD coalition — the Democratic Unity Roundtable — are still refusing to sit with the government.
Over three dozen people have died since opposition-led protests aimed at toppling the government began in early April. While the opposition and mainstream media have pinned the blame for that violence on government and state forces, a number of public officials, police, government supporters and bystanders have been among the victims.