While some in the Venezuelan opposition like to disparage President Nicolás Maduro as ‘the bus driver’ and mock his awkward efforts to ape the ways of his late predecessor, Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), Maduro, or at least those around him, learned one lesson well from the comandante: always to stay one step ahead of the enemy. The national state of exception decreed by Maduro on Friday 13 May was a dramatic but all too predictable move, as the Bolivarian government makes full use of the considerable legal means at its disposal. But with patience on the ground fraying fast, there is mounting concern, not only in the US, that Venezuela is heading for a potentially chaotic social reckoning.

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