No End in Sight to Venezuela’s Unrest as Maduro Tightens His Grip on Power

No End in Sight to Venezuela’s Unrest as Maduro Tightens His Grip on Power
Amid a cloud of tear gas during clashes with security forces, an anti-government protester covers himself with a shield that reads "Freedom" in Spanish, Caracas, Venezuela, May 10, 2017 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

Since the beginning of April, Venezuela has witnessed sustained protests on a scale not seen since 2014, when 43 people died during anti-government unrest. The latest wave of protests, in which at least 42 people have died, was initially triggered by the Supreme Court’s attempts earlier this year to assume the powers of the opposition-dominated National Assembly.

Although the move was revoked days after it was introduced, it served as a catalyst for protests over wider grievances, including shortages of basic goods, triple-figure inflation and increasingly undemocratic practices by the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV. Government attempts to quell the unrest—closing protest routes, deploying armed security forces and detaining hundreds of demonstrators—have failed, and the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, has vowed to continue to mobilize.

Yet President Nicolas Maduro still shows no sign of backing down as he maintains the support of key interest groups. Restrictions on political opponents and tight controls over key political and judicial institutions will continue to benefit his government. Maduro still has the support of the military, which has been regularly deployed to crack down on the demonstrations. The claims by three Venezuelan lieutenants who deserted in late March, seeking asylum in Colombia, that a military uprising was possible indicate some discontent. However, the highest-ranking military officials are likely to remain loyal to Maduro, given the significant economic benefits of close ties to the government.

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