Final days of chavismo? Venezuela protests test Maduro’s grip


Venezuela’s opposition mounted fresh nationwide protests Wednesday to push for a vote on driving President Nicolas Maduro from power in the crisis-stricken country, AFP reports:

A week after a mass demonstration in the capital, supporters of the opposition MUD coalition rallied near offices of the electoral authorities demanding a recall referendum against Maduro by the end of the year….Protests were called nationwide outside the local offices of the National Electoral Council (CNE), which is accused of stalling a referendum. In Caracas, the opposition called its supporters to stop all activity for 10 minutes at noon (1600 GMT).

“The opposition’s road map is to try to keep people participating. The challenge is to stay active and peaceful in the street while pushing a referendum,” said political analyst Luis Vicente Leon.

Power, shorn of authority, is inherently unstable. In Venezuela, it’s hard to shake the sense that we’re witnessing the final days of chavismo, analyst Francisco Toro writes for The Atlantic:

What began as a hopeful experiment is ending in the kind of economic and institutional devastation rarely seen beyond the battlefield. How long it might all take to play out, and how much more damage the regime might still do on its way out, is uncertain. But in the wake of #VillaRosa, it’s a question of when, not if.

“The government’s response strategy is detached from reality,” said Dimitris Pantoulas, a fellow at Caracas’s business school IESA. “More hard months lie ahead, as this government becomes ever more authoritarian,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

The two sides “want to annihilate each other,” said sociologist Maryclen Stelling. “And unfortunately in war, anything goes.”

Journalists are facing a worsening crackdown in crisis-torn Venezuela as the besieged socialist government takes harsh action against critical media, The Financial Times adds:

Foreign correspondents have recently been denied entry and a reporter for the Miami Herald was deported. Alleged pro-government protesters have hurled Molotov cocktails and excrement at the offices of the last remaining national opposition-leaning newspaper, while local journalists have been detained and questioned by intelligence agents, and television crews threatened by supposed leftist loyalists.

Critics say the government’s toughening restrictions on the media reflect a wider clampdown on dissent in the face of mass protests and calls for the resignation of unpopular president Nicolás Maduro.

Last week a crowd of hungry Venezuelans chased and heckled Maduro through the streets of Margarita Island (see video above).

Foro Penal, a rights group, said authorities arrested dozens of people after the heckling, the FT notes:

On Saturday, Braulio Jatar, director of the Margarita-based website Reporte Confidencial, was arrested and his house raided by intelligence agents after reporting on the protest. His brother-in-law, Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann, slammed “the abuse and oppression of Venezuela’s dictatorship”.


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