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WITHOUT BREAK

Unlike in Thailand, where political protesters are taking a break to celebrate Songkran, protesters in Venezuela have worked through the Easter holiday. Try as much as it could, the Nicolas Maduro government ultimately found it impossible to retain the happy picture it had wanted to project of people lazing by sunny beaches, as masked protesters in Caracas burnt effigies and “resurrected” their struggle for democracy. Since February this year, Mr Maduro has faced incessant protests, particularly in the urban centres, against his government’s perceived failure to tackle the country’s high rate of crime, high inflation and the acute shortage of daily necessities. The concentration of the movement in urban areas could be explained by the fact that the shortages and the crime rates are most palpably felt there. But it could also be explained by the fact that since the municipal elections last November, which Mr Maduro won by a handsome margin, many of the cities are in the control of the Opposition. Mr Maduro believes that the Opposition is responsible, and they are conspiring against his government with foreign help. Yet, rural areas in Venezuela are not immune to the dearth of governance that the cities are protesting against. But unlike in the cities, the people here are more vulnerable to the control of pro-Chavista armed gangs. The remnants of the Hugo Chavez magic also continue in the form of housing subsidies, promise of employment and subsidized food.

Mr Maduro realizes that the problem lies with the economy. While strict government control over it delivered the goods under Chavez, Venezuela is now seeing its pitfall in the form of a liquidity crunch, drying investment and the ruinous Petrocaribe scheme. Mr Maduro has garnered for himself the power of decree that allows him to overrule the legislature in economic matters. But the crisis in Venezuela requires much more than that. It requires Mr Maduro to go back to the fundamentals of the Revolution, even to question their relevance to present-day Venezuela.