BOGOTA – Venezuela is descending ever deeper into violence, with street protests spreading rapidly across the country. President Nicolás Maduro’s government appears to be losing control – using both a strong hand against protesters and a timid attempt to begin a dialogue with political rivals – while the opposition is divided and appears incapable of taking power. Since the current crisis began in February, more than 40 people have died, roughly 650 have been injured, and some 2,000 have been detained.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s inflation rate is the highest in the world, basic goods are in short supply, and street crime has reached unprecedented levels. And, rather than address these issues, Maduro – who has just completed his first year in office – has denounced the protests as part of an attempted coup.
Maduro’s party controls all three branches of government and most of the major domestic media outlets, and there are no upcoming elections that might break the deadlock and resolve the worsening power struggle. Though there are signs of discontent in the armed forces, the coup scenario seems far-fetched – and certainly hard to prove.
But the government is taking no chances. Three air force generals have been detained, national and foreign news media are being censored, and officials have even cut off supplies of newsprint to all but the government’s supporters.