These are the responsibility of the editor and convey the newspaper's view on current affairs-both domestic and international

Maduro turns radical

The Venezuelan president steps up repression but cannot dispel social discontent

Last week’s street violence, and the exacerbated war of words in Venezuela cannot continue for long. The deaths of three young men at the hands of unidentified gunmen at the end of anti-government demonstrations — as well as dozens of injuries and hundreds of arrests — have brought to the boil a society that is economically hard pressed, and politically divided between detractors and partisans of President Nicolás Maduro and his personal, inherited socialist regime.

Maduro, who by simple parliamentary majority last November obtained powers to govern by decree for a year, is utilizing these deaths, the general climate of exasperation and the growing malaise against his government to step up repression. Not only in the street itself, by means of the police and the feared and obscure pro-government militias — but also by preventing the publication of what happens in the street, by means of censorship and tight control of the radio, television and most of the newspapers.

The president’s arbitrary personal rule, in a country that has been stripped of real institutional checks and balances, is a serious impediment to coexistence in Venezuela, as is the totalitarian, combative language used by Maduro and his closest collaborators, who are forever denouncing conspiracies against them, inside and outside the country — a line of talk that has become practically their only political argument. Last week, which was marked by continual violence in the streets, the president accused his “fascist” rivals of preparing a coup d’état, and Colombian ex-President Álvaro Uribe of financing them. Far from setting up any serious investigation of last Wednesday’s deaths and seeing to it that those responsible are punished, the regime is embarking on an escalation of repression and heavy-handed propaganda.

Maduro, the heir to Hugo Chávez, was elected last April by a narrow margin, in a vote that was denounced as fraudulent by the opposition, which consists of diverse groups united around the figure of Henrique Capriles. The chaotic situation of Venezuela (a land rich in petroleum), where there is a shortage of consumer products of every sort, where inflation hovers around 40 percent and violent crime is out of control, has radicalized large sectors of the opposition, some of whom now consider moderate methods insufficient. In contrast to the dialogue advocated by Capriles, who is becoming progressively more isolated, Leopoldo López — an economist educated in the US, whom the regime has said it wishes to arrest on the grounds that he is preparing a coup and is guilty of a variety of crimes — stands for a harder line, of exerting pressure on the regime in the street.

Venezuela is not going to recover its lost balance through the repression of democratic liberties and the silencing of reality, which is what Maduro has come to represent — and less so with the language of victors and vanquished, imposed by the president and his adherents. If the supreme public good of coexistence is to be preserved in the Latin American country, the most urgent need is for him to take a decisive step backward in this alarming escalation of tension.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS