The contentment, however, is more apparent than real. “The same problems they have over there,” says Mercedes Rodríguez, a pensioner from western Caracas, “we have over here, too.” For a month now, Ms Rodríguez has been searching for the pills she needs to control her blood pressure. “There’s nowhere I haven’t looked,” she says. She draws a blank in the 4F pharmacy too, where the woman behind the counter says they have run out of 40% of the medicines they normally sell. Asked why there are no barricades in the Avenida Sucre, the pensioner manages a wry smile. “Maybe there’s more repression,” she says. …

A recent survey by Datos, a polling firm, found discontent with the government right across the social spectrum. Only 27.1% of respondents described themselves as pro-government; 43.7% favoured the opposition. More than seven out of ten had a negative view of the situation today and over half thought it would be even worse in six months.

Having been anointed by Chávez himself, Mr Maduro commands residual loyalty. Popular alternatives are thin on the ground. But more than 40% of government supporters blame the president for crime and economic hardship. Almost 90% of all Venezuelans said the government should change its policies, and an astonishing 64% favoured getting rid of it “by constitutional means” as soon as possible.