QUESTION ASKED: Will Venezuela’s Government Survive 2017?

The Maduro government enjoys little, if any, public support, and it doesn’t have the money to spend its way out of the problem. Maduro’s approval ratings hover around 21-26 percent, according to the most recent polls. And anecdotal evidence suggests that the actual level of support for Maduro is even lower. His support comes from a strong inner circle and a system based on political patronage. The members of his inner circle need Maduro to stay in office to maintain their livelihoods. Others get access to jobs and other benefits in exchange for their affiliation with the government. Public employees have reported that they must participate in pro-government rallies and show support for Maduro or risk losing their jobs. Now, even neighborhoods like El Valle in Caracas that strongly backed former President Hugo Chavez are turning against Maduro. His inability to continue meeting the promises made by Chavez has caused Maduro to lose this group’s support.

So far, Maduro has resisted resignation and a negotiated exit from power, believing he can withstand the protests against him. Previous negotiations failed in part because Maduro refused to concede on any of the opposition’s major demands. At this point, a change in constraints would be necessary to prompt a change in Maduro’s behavior. This would happen if Maduro feels personally threatened by the unrest. If Maduro believes that his security forces can no longer protect him or that his personal safety is in jeopardy, he will be forced to rethink his stance on leaving office.

If the military and other security forces can no longer keep the protests in check, it will be a game changer for the Maduro government.

Perhaps the final question is whether the security services remain loyal until the bloody end, or turn around and go full Ceaușescu.