When Will Venezuela Crack?

A divided opposition did capture online attention, but predictive signals favor the status quo.

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Long before Sunday’s vote, Venezuela’s presidential election was a fait accompli. Nicholas Maduro, who has become more autocratic the deeper the country falls into crisis, banned major opposition parties and politicians and repressed anti-government protests. Many voters — either disillusioned or joining in a boycott — stayed home. Turnout was just more than half of what it was in the past two presidential elections.

In the digital arena, the opposition generated far more interest than Maduro. Spanish-language attention to web pages about Henri Falcon, the candidate who placed second in the vote, reached an all-time high. Similarly, opposition party social media accounts were far more active than government ones. 

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The question is, does that matter? The opposition failed to unite — either to support Falcon, or to boycott the election altogether. And the government has succeeded in quelling popular dissent. The greatest threat to Maduro is Venezuela’s military, which — thanks to a mix of repression and inducements — continues to support the regime. For months, many observers have speculated that the military would soon take matters into its own hands, and reports of discontent in the ranks have been increasing. 

Yet, Predata signals that anticipate major actions related to the Venezuelan armed forces remain level, suggesting that at least in the near-term the status quo will persevere. Wherever the bottom is for Venezuela, we may not have reached it yet. 

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