Published On: Fri, May 5th, 2017

Venezuela government support shaky as all sides have their say

President Nicolas Maduro appears to be losing support.

Venezuela-MaduroCARACAS – Support for the socialist administration of President Nicolas Maduro appears to be flagging, as former government stalwarts and even some quarters of the military are speaking out amidst the escalating economic, political and social crisis.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who has accused Maduro of inflicting “savage repression” on the Venezuelan people, told BBC News that early general elections are the only way to put an end to the unrest.

“How long can Maduro stand denying Venezuelans the right to vote? I don’t think much longer,” he said.

Nearly 30 people have been killed, and many more injured, in protests this month and the economy is staggering under the weight of shortages and runaway inflation.

According to Capriles, it has reached the stage where “no more than 20 percent of Venezuelans” support the government.

“There is no fight between different sectors of the Venezuelan people. That’s over in Venezuela. There is no division among Venezuelans,” he said.

The current wave of protests began after the Supreme Court took over powers from the opposition-controlled National Assembly on March 29.

The court recanted three days later, but it was too late to stop the street protests, which gathered momentum when Capriles was banned from holding political office for 15 years.

“When this is going to stop? I don’t see the people giving up fighting for their country,” Capriles said.

The opposition, which blames Maduro for the crisis engulfing the nation, wants early elections and the release of jailed opposition politicians.

Capriles also believes Maduro has misread the mood of the people.

“They [the government] are, at this moment, like a kidnapper who’s surrounded by police but believes he will be able to kill the hostages, kill the police and escape unharmed. They are wrong; they made a miscalculation,” he said.

As if to prove Capriles point, CNBC reports that according to a note from Teneo Intelligence, officers of the armed forces may become increasingly reluctant to stave off a political coup due to potential legal repercussions.

“Many agents and officers will be fearful of the eventual legal consequences of violently suppressing protests,” it read.

“There is also disquiet within the FANB (National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela) over the use of colectivos, or criminal groups loosely aligned with Chavismo that the government often uses as enforcers.

“Given the question marks over the security forces’ loyalty, and their importance to staving off the government’s collapse, the outlook – even in the short-term – is now deeply uncertain.”

Adding to the apparent evaporation of support, the son of Venezuela’s rights ombudsman, Tarek William Saab, has called on his father to “stop the injustice which has sunk Venezuela.”

In a video posted on YouTube, Yibram Saab read out a letter to his father in which he condemned “the brutal repression by the country’s security forces” of opposition protests.

Regionally, the Organization of American States (OAS) last week voted in favour of convening a meeting of foreign minister to consider the situation in Venezuela.

Miffed by what it called the OAS’s meddling, Venezuela has begun the process of withdrawing from the organisation.

Maduro’s only apparent acknowledgement that the crisis was coming to a head came on Sunday when he raised the minimum wage and welcomed an offer by Pope Francis for Vatican mediation towards a “negotiated solution.”

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