As President Maduro one by one closes off legal routes to challenging is control over the country, the opposition is turning to more radical measures. Reuters:
“We’ve reached the limit,” said Henrique Capriles, a usually moderate opposition leader, calling the government “Satan.”
“Does the opposition have anything to negotiate with the government? Nothing. Why does the government want dialogue? Because the water has risen to its neck,” he said.
Some hardliners, most notably veteran activist Maria Corina Machado and jailed protest leader Leopoldo Lopez’ wife Lilian Tintori, are calling for Gandhi-style civil disobedience.
But will a harder line resonate with average Venezuelans? Reports suggest that attendance at a spate of recent protests was dominated by the opposition’s traditional coalition of students and activists, and attendance tapered off towards the end of the week. And participation in a general strike, called for by the opposition for today, was patchy at best, after Maduro’s government threatened to shut down businesses taking part. One business owner interviewed by Reuters expressed his reservations:
Cafe owner Alfonso Brito, 54, said he opposed Maduro but could not afford to close for the day, especially given losses on Wednesday during the rallies. “You’re making people decide between earning a living or protesting,” he said, adding that he had fewer customers than usual.
With an OPEC production freeze in doubt, the long-term outlook for Maduro’s ideologically sclerotic regime is anything but rosy. But in the immediate term, the Venezuelan strongman appears to have wrong-footed the opposition. A representative from the Vatican will supposedly attempt to mediate discussions between opposition and ruling party members this weekend, but with the current state of play, it’s hard to see the government giving much ground.
Of course, trying to predict the course of inherently unstable situations is always a fools’ errand. But as we’ve noted several times before, keeping a close eye on Venezuela’s trajectory is critically important. A cratering Venezuela, potentially spinning out into civil war, with all of the attendant knock-on effects that this would have on the region is something that the next American President will have to be on guard for.