It is not an exaggeration to say that in many Venezuelan homes, regardless of politics, there's a weapon. The website gunpolicy.org cites some stats: "The estimated total number of guns (both licit and illicit) held by civilians in Venezuela is 1,600,000 to 4,100,000... In a comparison of the number of privately owned guns in 178 countries, Venezuela ranked at No. 27... Unlawfully held guns cannot be counted, but in Venezuela there are estimated to be 1,100,000 to 2,700,000". Despite chavismo's efforts at implementing gun control plans, it remains a fact that hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions of weapons are out there. Now, with that in mind, how many colectivo attacks will take for people to start taking matters into their own hands? Is Maduro even remotely worried about the consequences of the brutal repression that his thugs are meting out?
We can all agree that Maduro is not the brightest bulb, and his Cuban handlers just could not care less about life and the wellbeing of Venezuelans in general. But they are playing an extremely dangerous game, by deploying an all out, do or die, now or never strategy that seeks to instil sheer fear in protesters. Yesterday three people were killed, allegedly one of whom was a 6 year old girl. Caracas's Central University was the scene of confrontation for most of the day. Contrary to conventional wisdom among those who, from afar, have already declared that "mainly middle class" protesters in "mainly middle class areas" won't achieve a thing and represent a tiny minority, there's a growing body of evidence that shows that protests are not isolated events confined to Caracas. Skirmishes between National Guard / colectivos and protesters have been reported from Merida, San Cristobal, Maracaibo, Valencia, Valera, Ciudad Bolivar, Barquisimeto, and Maracay, to name but the biggest cities. In fact, yesterday's deaths occurred in Valencia in La Isabelica, under no definition a "mainly middle class" area. Sources in San Cristobal tell me that the National Guard / colectivos have already given up in some areas, where they are no longer being repelled with rocks but with bullets, and the situation in Merida is also getting out of control.
How far does Maduro want to take this? Does no one in his entourage realise that, unlike among opposition rank and file, he can call his henchmen off and put an immediate stop to further unnecessary bloodshed and deaths? The strategists within chavismo, if there are such things, are playing with fire. Most of them will remember what happened in Venezuela in 1989, and they should dust off some historical events. It only takes one order to go wrong for the whole thing to become an unmanageable chaos, and were that to occur we shall be left with a mountain of corpses. Chavismo does not have the logistics to placate a national uprising. They know it, and so does everyone else. By exerting brutal repression in selected areas the thinking must be that terrorising a few here and there will bring protests to a halt. Alas that isn't happening. On the contrary, student-led mobilizations are spreading across the country and radicalizing.
What then, Maduro? What when those holding those guns decide enough is enough?