In the 11 years since Hugo Chávez became president of Venezuela, the country has experienced almost constant political and economic drama. The past decade brought a cinematic -- and ultimately failed -- coup d'état against the president, a national strike that brought the economy to its knees, border disputes complete with tank deployments, and a string of controversial nationalizations of private businesses, to name just a few of the remarkable developments that have marked the Age of Chávez.
Despite the stiff competition of years past, though, 2010 is already taking shape as a year of reckoning for the country, the man, and the ideology. The coming months will write a defining chapter in the history of Venezuela, Chávez and Chavismo.
A number of factors have combined to make this a year of even greater strife. Chávez is looking vulnerable. That will invigorate the opposition, which will, in turn, likely prompt Chávez and his most committed ideological supporters to push even harder in defense of their "Bolivarian Revolution." There is little doubt that 2010 will see figurative, as well as real blood in the streets. In fact, blood has already flowed.