High-stakes political tensions are nothing new to the socialist government of Venezuela. The late President Hugo Chavez seemed to become invigorated by class struggle and the passionate protests it engendered. The strife energized his supporters and fortified the faithful. His heir, Nicolas Maduro, has also faced fierce opposition protests and has responded forcefully, imprisoning the most vociferous of opposition challengers. But the substance, character and context of complaints have changed. The challenge is growing exponentially riskier for the Venezuelan president.
The street protests from regime opponents have quieted down, replaced with something much more ominous for Maduro. Just as Venezuela’s already disastrous economic condition is about to get much worse because of a slide in oil prices, the wave of discontent among Chavistas is growing stronger. More and more leftists are openly questioning whether Maduro is the right man to protect the legacy of Chavez, the leader they have nearly turned into a deity.
The widening divisions within the ruling United Venezuelan Socialist Party (PSUV) have intensified enormously in recent weeks, boiling over in full public view.