In Venezuela, protests are continuing; however, a split is developing between opposition groups.
Opposition moderates question the demonstrator’s tactics of blocking streets, setting up barricades and exchanging volleys of rocks with police and security forces. They say this may backfire and boost support for Maduro.
Opposition marchers that ranged from students to middle-aged professionals and senior citizens filled a square in the east of Caracas to protest problems including 56 percent annual inflation and one of the world’s highest murder rates.The government is continuing to say that the protestors are part of a US-backed coup attempt. They extended the usual Carnival holiday by two days in order to defuse the protests.
Given the split between the opposition groups, it seems as if Maduro's government will hang on. The article notes that in 2004, opposition groups tried to protest until Chavez was driven from power, only to see the protests fizzle out as people wanted to get on with their lives.
However, there are plenty of difficulties for the present government. Even if the protests fizzle out, the problem of rampant murder rates and 56% inflation will not go away. The government will have to come up with some sort of a plan to stop the inflation and the crime. Which means that the danger is that the protestors will return in greater force down the road even if the present protests fizzle out.
Repulsed by the traditional political elite, Venezuelans delivered Chavez a landslide victory in 1998. At the time, he advocated the Third Way approach championed by Tony Blair, but his key strategy was to use oil riches to fund social programmes. Poverty rates collapsed from 50 per cent to around 25 per cent; extreme poverty was reduced by two-thirds. According to the UN, this represents the second-biggest percentage-point drop in poverty in Latin America. The traditional bastion of neo-liberal dogma, the World Bank, reveals that, while Venezuela's gross national per capita income languished below the continent's average before Chavez came to power, it is now $13,120, higher than Brazil or Argentina, and against an average of $8,981. Despite recent economic troubles, the UN revealed that Venezuela enjoyed the region's biggest drop in poverty in 2012.The problem is that certain people have short memories in politics and do not remember that the inflation rate was nearly twice as bad before Chavez came into power and that per capita income was sharply lower.
Does this mean that Venezuela is some sort of paradise? No. Inflation runs at over 50 per cent: but it is a disease the country is long familiar with. Under Chavez's neo-liberal predecessor Rafael Caldera in the 1990s, it topped 100 per cent. And yet this was not presented as a failure of free-market capitalism. The law-and-order situation is simply unacceptable, exacerbated by various factors: neighbouring Colombia's civil war; a society that’s awash with guns; and an ineffective police force riddled with corruption. Neither should the government's support for tyrannies in Syria and Libya be overlooked, though given Western support for vile dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia – and Tony Blair's lucrative employment by Kazakhstan's dictatorship – let's not overdose on the hypocrisy.
The Venezuelan government was nearly a victim of its own success. Having registered millions of voters over the last 15 years, vote totals more than doubled. However, Maduro nearly lost recently, even though he won nearly twice as many votes as Chavez did when he first got elected. But given the split developing in the opposition, it may have been their last best chance to derail Chavez's revolution.