Venezuela's Maduro is rapidly running out of friends

It’s been clear for months that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had lost the support of most of his starving citizens, but now even some of the hard core Chavistas are abandoning him. Up until now, as long as Maduro could keep control of his executive branch forces and party leadership, along with maintaining the country’s Supreme Court (stocked with his loyal supporters), he seemed content to try to wait out the protesters. His security forces have been out in the streets beating them down and killing the occasional person who got too close the militias. But now he’s losing some of the party loyalists who seem to be sensing that the ship is sinking and it might be time to follow the rats over the side. Bloomberg has a list of some of the most recent defections.

Friends of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro are peeling away. As the nation’s chaos grinds on, former allies are joining a mounting chorus of dissent, a wave of defections unprecedented since the 1999 dawn of the nation’s socialist era. Many of the disenchanted are actively working to foil Maduro’s efforts, making his hold on power all the more tenuous…

Luisa Ortega Diáz, Venezuela’s chief prosecutor, represents the deepest crack in Chavismo, Chávez’s self-styled socialist project. Once a fierce loyalist who brought charges against foes of the late president and Maduro, she now denounces Maduro’s crackdown as “brutal repression.”

Germán Ferrer is a former guerrilla, lawmaker from the ruling party and husband of Ortega Diáz. Ferrer has lambasted the president for ignoring criticism, clamping down on the media and for not submitting his plans to rewrite the constitution to a vote. He has said that both he and his wife have been receiving threats and are under surveillance.

Miguel Rodríguez Torres is a retired major general and former minister of interior under Maduro. A close ally of Chávez, he participated in the botched 1992 coup that launched the late president onto Venezuela’s national stage. Rodriguez Torres later rose through the ranks, serving as a spy chief until Maduro tapped him as minister. He has emerged as a key dissident voice, trying to create a middle ground in a bitterly divided country, boasting both his experience in the politically pivotal military and his loyalty to Chávez.

There are more on the list, including Maduro’s former ombudsman and the head of a smaller political party which has been aligned with Maduro’s party to help him form his majority. These are major cracks in the socialist alliance and if the President loses too many more he may be forced to abdicate.

All of them have to have been noticing the escalating violence in the streets. Just the other day a 22 year old student was shot dead by Venezuelan police right in the middle of the street. And in the past 24 hours, a mob broke through the fences and into a major air base before being beaten back by security forces. This came at the same time that Maduro claimed to have “broken up a United States plot” to overthrow his government. (Associated Press)

Young protesters broke down a metal fence guarding an air base in Caracas on Saturday before being repelled by security forces firing tear gas in another day of anti-government protests in Venezuela’s capital.

Demonstrators threw stones, and some protesters were injured…President Nicolas Maduro said in an address to troops Saturday that he had managed to break up a U.S.-backed plot to oust him. Like his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, Maduro frequently accuses the U.S. of trying to topple Venezuela’s socialist administration.

All the while the dictator is still taking to Twitter to proclaim how wonderfully everything is going.

The quick translation of that is, “Despite outbreaks of violence, Venezuela has been at peace, facing problems with love.”

Chavez tried to blame his problems on the United States also, and generally to better effect. It was all political gamesmanship, likely combined with more than a little delusion, but he portrayed America as a common enemy to cement the support of his followers. Maduro doesn’t seem to be able to pull off the same trick and even his own loyalists are beginning to abandon him. Hopefully he will soon recognize that it isn’t America or any other outside force attacking him. His own people want him gone… preferably through new elections, but if not, dragging him out physically may have to suffice.