By Mick Krever and Ken Olshansky, CNN
Venezuela’s political deadlock presents a “delicate and complex moment” for the country, Venezuelan historian and political scientist Margarita Lopez Maya told CNN’s Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, on Monday.
The country’s simmering protests could come to a full boil at any moment, with a dramatic showdown shaping up between embattled President Nicolas Maduro, the former bus driver and handpicked heir of Hugo Chavez, and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.
Three people were killed in violent clashes in Caracas last week; Maduro's government blames Lopez, ordering his arrest on charges of murder and terrorism.
Lopez asserts his innocence and dropped out of sight, until last night, when he Tweeted a video call to action, saying he will lead peaceful march on the ministry of justice on Tuesday.
Lopez, though unable to break cover to appear as a guest on CNN, sent “Amanpour” an exclusive audio recording on Monday in which he said Venezuela stood at a “critical moment.”
CNN reached out to offer the Venezuelan government a place on the program; they chose not to appear.
“This is one episode more in our difficulties,” Lopez Maya said. “It is a delicate and complex moment, yes, but this is not the first time we’ve been into one of these.”
For ten months, President Maduro has presided over a surging crime wave and a growing economic crisis: Widespread shortages of basic goods and an inflation rate topping 50% are crippling the oil-rich nation.
In the face of surging unrest, Maduro took a page from the Chavez playbook, first deflecting blame with a barrage of conspiracy accusations, then using those charges to justify a crackdown on independent media and the opposition, as well as expelling three U.S. diplomats Sunday.
The government, Lopez Maya said, has so far been unwilling to talk with the opposition and alleviate its discontent.
“What we are seeing in the streets is a protest of the society against all of the problems of the society.”
The president, she said, has not shown himself to be the leader Venezuela needs.
“Maduro is a weak leader. He probably is right now the best solution that [Chavistas] have. But nevertheless he has no charisma. He doesn’t know how to talk, his discourse is incoherent, it’s contradictory.”
“Nicolas Maduro is not Hugo Chavez, and that is one of the big problems that he has.”
And factions within “Chavismo,” she said, are forcing him to radicalize in order to remain in power.
“The Venezuelans have a lot of motives to go to the streets today. And they will keep on going to the streets if the government doesn’t open the spaces for dialogue.”
“I am very concerned about this.”