Over the past several days, things in Venezuela have not only taken a palpable turn for the worse, but now seem to be moving at an accelerating pace toward the inevitable endgame for the Maduro regime and whatever happens next.
As we reported on Friday night, following dramatic scenes of violence in the streets, things escalated when some 5,000 starving locals looted a supermarket looking for food, leaving countless injured. The result was an immediate, if long overdue acknowledgement by US officials that "a crisis is coming" who added that Maduro "was not likely to be able to complete his term, which is due to end after elections in late 2018" implying that a coup is likely imminent.
They said one “plausible” scenario would be that Maduro’s own party or powerful political figures would force him out and would not rule out the possibility of a military coup.
An interview we presented with a member of the Venezuelan national guard confirmed as much when the anonymous guardsman said that "the situation in Venezuela has never been as bad as it is now. The breaking point is near, but still not at hand. My recommendation is for people to prepare, to look for food and then to store it. Obviously, when the implosion occurs , it won’t last long. I believe it will last something like 10 days, but they will be difficult days."
Indeed, all that is missing is the catalyst for a broad, if violent, popular upheaval against Maduro's failing regime.
That catalyst may have been revealed this weekend, when Venezuela's opposition on Saturday slammed a state of emergency decreed by President Nicolas Maduro and vowed to press home efforts to remove the leftist leader this year amid a grim economic crisis.
As we reported yesterday, Maduro on Friday night declared a 60-day state of emergency due to what he called plots from Venezuela and the United States to subvert him. He did not provide specifics. A recording of his increasingly angry rhetoric is shown below:
As Reuters adds today, "the measure shows Maduro is panicking as a push for a recall referendum against him gains traction with tired, frustrated Venezuelans, opposition leaders said during a protest in Caracas."
"We're talking about a desperate president who is putting himself on the margin of legality and constitutionality," said Democratic Unity coalition leader Jesus Torrealba, adding Maduro was losing support within his own bloc.
"If this state of emergency is issued without consulting the National Assembly, we would technically be talking about a self-coup," he told hundreds of supporters who waved Venezuelan flags and chanted "he's going to fall."
The people's will was already made clear late last year when the opposition won control of the National Assembly in a December election, propelled by voter anger over product shortages, raging inflation that has annihilated salaries, and rampant violent crime, but the legislature has been routinely undercut by the Supreme Court. The lit fuse is therefore entirely in the hands of the increasingly more desperate people. Protests are on the rise and a key poll shows nearly 70% of Venezuelans now say Maduro must go this year.
Maduro has vowed to see his term through, however, blasting opposition politicians as coup-mongering elitists seeking to emulate the impeachment of fellow leftist Dilma Rousseff in Brazil.
Saying trouble-makers were fomenting violence to justify a foreign invasion, Maduro on Saturday hinted that a violent crackdown on enemies, both foreign and domestic, may be imminent when he ordered military exercises for next weekend.
"We're going to tell imperialism and the international right that the people are present, with their farm instruments in one hand and a gun in the other... to defend this sacred land," he boomed at a rally. He added the government would take over idled factories, and in the process "radicalize the revolution:"
"Comrades, I am ready to hand over to communal power the factories that some conservative big wigs in this country have stopped. An idled factory is a factory handed over to the people. We are going to do it, fuck it!"
Critics of Maduro, a former union leader and bus driver, say he should instead focus on people's urgent needs.
"There will be a social explosion if Maduro doesn't let the recall referendum happen," said protester Marisol Dos Santos, 34, an office worker at a supermarket where she says some 800 people queue up daily.But the opposition fear authorities are trying to delay a referendum until 2017, when the presidency would fall to the vice president, a post currently held by Socialist Party loyalist Aristobulo Isturiz.
"If you block this democratic path we don't know what might happen in this country," two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said at the demonstration.
"Venezuela is a time bomb that can explode at any given moment."
Judging by the upcoming "military exercises", that moment for the failed socialist nation may be as soon as next weekend. The only question is whether the military will support the increasingly unpopular president or if it will once again turn on the people as it has in recent weeks as shown in the video below of Venezuela police and anti-riot authorities cracking down with excessive force on protesters. Viewer discretion advised.