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Tide may be turning in favor of Venezuela's Maduro

Mar 14, 2016, 1:52 AM EDT

Last week was a tough one for some current and former socialist heads of state.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was once hailed for fighting to bring the Workers’ Party to prominence while president of Brazil. He is now fighting accusations of fraud and money laundering.

Dilma Rousseff, once dubbed a “subversive Joan of Arc,” succeeded Lula and became the first woman elected to head South America’s most populous nation. Now she is struggling to keep the party together as schisms threaten to derail her government and record protests may signal her departure from power sooner rather than later.

French President François Hollande’s election in 2012 was considered a rejection of hardline conservatism. Now he is having a hard time taming the various forces, some from within his own party, that took to the streets to protest his fumbling end-of-term attempt to cement his legacy with last-minute reforms to the nation’s rigid labor laws.

But a fourth elected socialist leader may be witnessing a dousing of the flames ever licking at his administration. Days after Venezuela's newly minted opposition coalition, Democratic Unity, announced plans to oust Nicolás Maduro from office via “constitutional means” only, an anti-Maduro rally focused on the stagnant economy fell flat Saturday while the president’s supporters countered with an “anti-imperialism” protest of their own.

Not that Maduro’s fans were any more fired up than his detractors. But the lack of enthusiasm on the other side suggests that, as frustrated as many are with chavismo, the socialist governing philosophy named after Maduro’s mentor, the late President Hugo Chávez, the violence and eventual futility of earlier demonstrations seem to have taken the fight out of the very people the opposition is counting on as part of its elaborate exit strategy.

Similarly, the opposition, which notched resounding victories in key congressional races last December, finds itself hamstrung by the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s ruling in January that declared all congressional decisions null and void.

So now what? As Maduro-haters ponder whether to head back to the drawing board or try to wait it out until the next presidential election in 2019, their antagonist breathes a sigh of relief, gazes upon a landscape littered with the failed dreams of his socialist colleagues, and hopes he can avoid stepping on any more political land mines.

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