The shoes were clearly too big for him to fill. Three-and-a-half years after Hugo Chávez's death, his successor Nicolás Maduro is losing an already loose grip on the helm of his country. A disastrous economic and social crisis is turning into a political one, and the country's long-suffering opposition feels primed to remove him from power.
Anti-government protests now appear to be reaching a critical juncture after a policeman was shot dead yesterday by demonstrators in Caracas, while two other officers and several protesters were injured, along with dozens of arrests, El Universal reports. The opposition called for a nationwide strike tomorrow, and for a protest march on the presidential palace next week Thursday.
The current turmoil in Venezuela, and Maduro's way of dealing with it, are blurring the lines between democracy and dictatorship — a bitterly ironic reversal for what was once a strong democracy in a Latin American continent otherwise dominated by authoritarian regimes.
This is the state of affairs described by Colombian professor Ronal F. Rodríguez in an op-ed column for El Espectador, available in English onWorldcrunch: "Classifying Venezuela as a dictatorship or democracy has not been easy these last years," he writes. "The country ruled by Chávez was neither entirely democratic, nor dictatorial. The presence of an opposition that could compete in elections, though often in unequal conditions, made this rather a moderately authoritarian system. But the picture has changed since Chávez's death."
Unlike the Venezuelan opposition, Rodríguez stops short of calling Maduro a dictator. But he does warn that the regime is "openly flirting with dictatorial practices," causing as a result "alarm across a continent where democratic ideals are still far from written in stone."
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY