AP Explains: Why are protests rocking Venezuela now?
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Venezuela is in the midst of a violent protest movement that has resulted in eight deaths this month as the country's deeply unpopular socialist administration struggles to stay in power and a newly energized opposition calls for an immediate presidential election.
The protests began three weeks ago after the Supreme Court issued a decision stripping the opposition-controlled congress of its last remaining powers. President Nicolas Maduro later asked the court to walk back that move amid a storm of international criticism. But the attempt to take over congress unleashed long-simmering anger amid an economic crisis that has a majority of Venezuelans skipping meals and even losing weight.
Tens of thousands of protesters flooded the streets again Thursday after the government took over a General Motors plant in its first such seizure of the major company in two years.
HOW PROTESTS STARTED
The opposition scored a stunning landslide victory in 2015 legislative elections amid growing frustration with Maduro's handling of the economy. Opposition leaders vowed to seek his ouster through
Then in late March, the Supreme Court issued a ruling nullifying the body altogether. The court quickly reversed that ruling, but opposition leaders say the socialist administration revealed its true dictatorial ambitions. The country has seen near-daily protests ever since.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
The big fear is a repeat of the riots and looting that rocked Caracas in 1989, leaving around 300 people dead. Another wave of anti-government unrest in 2014 resulted in more than 40 deaths and dozens of arrests.
Venezuela has one of the world's highest homicide rates and the huge number of firearms circulating on the streets is a major concern in the event of unrest, as are the activities of armed motorcycle gangs that were once loyal to the government.
STATE OF THE ECONOMY
The economy is forecast to sink 8
Oil accounts for 96
The Venezuelan government has already seized many assets of foreign corporations. General Motors said Thursday that its plant in the country had been seized, causing it to halt its operations in the South American nation.
Polls say 75
The opposition has historically been divided by big egos and had a tough time connecting with poor people who still revere the late Hugo Chavez. But right now the opposition is more united than it has been in recent years. Both hardcore and moderate opposition leaders want to keep up street protests and push for new general elections.
Venezuela's military historically has been the arbiter of political disputes and some in the opposition are trying to spur its leaders into action to resolve the current impasse. However, Chavez and Maduro have been
One unanswered question is whether the military will use heavy force as it did during anti-government unrest in 2014.