Crackdown on the opposition continues

| Feb. 26, 2015 | Caracas, Venezuela

Published by Economist Intelligence Unit


Julio Borges, an opposition congressman and co-ordinator of the Primero Justicia (PJ) party, faces an investigation into allegations that he is plotting against the country's government. This comes amid a major crackdown against the opposition and increasing unrest across the country.


The probe, requested by pro-government legislators, is similar to that against another member of the opposition, the mayor of the capital, Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, who has been detained and charged in the last week for conspiracy against the president, Nicolás Maduro. Although Mr Borges remains free, it is likely that he will be detained and charged, in what appears to be a serious crackdown on the opposition.

Mr Ledezma joins another opposition heavyweight, Leopoldo López, in the Ramo Verde prison. Mr López was detained more than a year ago for allegedly inciting the largest anti-government protests Venezuela had seen for a decade.

Those protests were sparked in February 2014 in San Cristóbal, near the country's border with Colombia. San Cristóbal's former mayor, Daniel Ceballos, remains in prison for his involvement in the protests, while another mayor, Enzo Scarano, of San Diego, has been transferred from jail to house arrest in recent weeks because of worsening health.

On top of these detentions, María Corina Machado, a hardline opposition politician, was charged in December with plotting to kill Mr Maduro. There are concerns that she will soon be detained.

The latest crackdown comes amid an increase in protests across the country, notably in San Cristóbal. A 14-year-old boy was killed by authorities in San Cristóbal on February 24th, sparking further violence in that part of the country, which has potential to spread further.

The background to the protests is increasing economic problems, manifesting themselves in shortages and long supermarket queues, as well as increasingly high prices that are not necessarily reflected in official data, as the goods are often sold on the black market. Mr Maduro's approval ratings remain in the low twenties.

Impact on the forecast

We remain concerned by the crackdown on the opposition and unrest in San Cristóbal. We maintain our current forecast that the opposition will make significant gains in the legislative elections due in the fourth quarter. Given the failure of large-scale protests last year to remove Mr Maduro, we continue to believe that social unrest is unlikely to return to such a high level.