Back in December of 2015, when opposition parties took 74% of the votes in Venezuela’s last Parliamentary election, is when the Associated Press’ Bogota Bureau Chief Joshua Goodman and I started conversing about stories from his beat in northern South America.
Most of our talk has been about the quickening disappearance of democracy in President Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela.
To spite that 3 to 1 national vote against him Maduro first tried to neuter the new Legislature with Presidential vetoes or judicial rulings by his hand-picked Supreme Court.
Not a single significant bill passed by the Parliament people picked became law.
Still the National Congress was a great place to create and publicize challenges to the President. So Maduro tried to shut them up, by having his Supreme Court nullify the Legislature, send them home, close up their shop.
And by all appearances, that tore it for a lot of Venezuelans.
Even before the court tried to kill the Congress, polls showed the proportion of Venezuelans who wanted to dump President Maduro was still at 75%. After the nullification was filed, the opposition movement went from close to idle into overdrive.
Even after Maduro got the message and ordered the court to take the nullification back, and even after they did so, the campaign for an early election to pick his successor only got stronger.
Protests, most pretty big, some pretty huge, have become daily events in the capitol Caracas and in cities across the country.
In Washington Michael Shifter, the head of the think tank Inter-American Dialogue saw “more anger and more intensity … also more people from popular sectors who were willing to protest than previously. It was not just the middle class.”
Maduro’s response to popular rejection — a kind of private army, a militia of collectivos, men armed and paid by the government, some known to free-lance in violent crime. Maduro has an estimated 100,000 of these gunmen, and he recently went on television to declare he wants half a million.
As the protests grow in size and number so does the violence on both sides being generated.
For weeks now things in Venezuela have kept getting worse. Raising a lot of hard questions about Venezuela‘s future.
Joshua Goodman is the Associated Press (AP) Bureau Chief for northern South America, based in Bogota. His responsibilities have him frequently in Caracas, where he has covered Venezuela’s ongoing political and economic crisis.