Nausea. That’s what’s left after you scan the political headlines of the last 24 hours. Dread at seeing the country now teetering on the very edge of a catastrophe orders of magnitude worse than the disaster we’ve already seen.

Maduro threatens the National Assembly, explicitly, with “disappearance”. Capriles tells the Armed Forces, plainly, that the time to choose between Maduro and the Constitution is at hand. Nationwide demonstrations are called in an atmosphere of heightening desperation as millions of Venezuelans face outright hunger and destitution. Maduro rules out a recall referendum this year shamelessly, and all but announces there will be no regional elections either. The opposition calls for the state of emergency to be ignored.

I don’t remember a political landscape this combustible in Venezuela, well…ever. I don’t remember our political conflict ever been this suffused with menace, this clearly poised for violence.

Maduro seems to think he can run the old Chávez playbook of continuously “fleeing forward” – of doubling down on every mistake and ceaselessly provoking, goading, prodding the opposition into over-reaching so he can beat them down harder.

The clique around him seems catatonic, utterly unable to grasp that the context around them has completely changed. That goading the opposition into playing posición adelantada with oil at $115/barrel and a chicken in every pot is a vastly different proposition than doing it with oil at $45 and millions of the people you claimed to champion going hungry. That threatening to shut down entire branches of government is one thing when you have the unconditional support of the most powerful players in the region and something else entirely when the OAS Secretary General and Argentina and Brazil and Mexico and the United States are all actively appalled by the prospect.

They don’t seem to grasp – or, worse, don’t seem to care – that their fanatical determination to shut down every institutional avenue for resolving the crisis puts unbearable strains not only on Venezuelan society as a whole but also on the cohesion of the governing coalition that sustains their power.

It frankly amazes me that, seventeen years on, these people still have the capacity to frankly amaze me.

But they do.

Maduro’s inner clique operates on a level of historic irresponsibility I’m not entirely equipped to grasp. It’s hard to accept as reasonable analysis that their intention is to just burn down the house they live in. But that seems very much to be the plan now, doesn’t it?

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