As Venezuelans marked the first anniversary of the death of Hugo Chavez, anti-government protests continued in the South American country. Issues like the crippling inflation rate and food shortages were highlighted, leading to a violent escalation. An estimated 18 people have died. El Comandante’s successor, President Maduro after a very narrow win in the elections has had to contend with a spiraling economic situation. He addressed this by gaining approval for ‘Ley Habilitante’ (Enabling Act), used on four occasions by his predecessor, to gain ‘special powers’ from the National Assembly allowing him to govern for the next 12 months without needing to consult Congress. Upon signing the bill he promised to conduct a ‘ground-shaking’ anti-corruption offensive and to keep prices down. In his pursuit of an ‘economic war’, he forced retailers to slash prices by up to 60% accusing them of economic sabotage, as well as regulating the price of cars, advocating fair prices, and establishing profit caps. These measures helped him secure a majority in the local elections, and seemed to have bought his government some much needed time and legitimacy.

However, rather than working with him on the much-touted black-market crisis and rising inflation rates, the opposition have ignored his calls for dialogue and have instead seized the protests as an opportunity to topple the democratically elected government. The President still enjoys vast support within the country, due to his close relationship with Chavez if nothing else, however social media has been flooded with images and claims of police brutality subsequently found to be instances involving the Chilean, Bulgarian and Egyptian police. Out of the 55 people currently detained, 11 of those are from the security forces for their role in the violence. Hugo Chavez’s special brand of socialism – chavismo – now being continued by Maduro has seen substantial improvements with regards to unemployment, health, education and an unprecedented drop in poverty. The opposition has severely underestimated the support such policies have gained for the poorer class, and they are unlikely to abandon them at the first hint of trouble. The regime-changing strategy of fuelling violent protest to provoke state-sponsored violence is typical. President Maduro has spoken of US involvement, an allegation that is hardly surprising in the face of US foreign policy, their current funding of the opposition ($5m in this year’s federal budget, $90m since 2000), and the very simple fact that Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. For mainstream media, it’s time to wake up, and smell the Sulphur.