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As Venezuela Disintegrates, Maduro Consolidates Power

December 09, 2017

Four days before the knock on his door, Venezuela’s oil minister tweeted an ode to President Nicolás Maduro: “Thank you, President Maduro, for giving me the honor of being by your side.”

Flattery got the oil chief nowhere. In a scene videotaped and displayed on government channels, a masked intelligence agent, clad in black, handcuffed the surprised minister at the door of his home Nov. 30, before hauling him away to a military jail.

Venezuela’s government called the arrest of Eulogio Del Pino part of a “historic fight against corruption” that in recent weeks has ensnared dozens of senior officials, especially those linked to the all-important state oil giant, PDVSA. Yet observers say the moves also highlight an escalating effort by Maduro to consolidate power ahead of next year’s presidential elections, in which he is expected to seek another term....

Maduro “seems to be clearing the decks for a presidential run in 2018, trying to reduce the stature and perhaps the freedom of anyone who might be a countervailing center of power,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, a business and culture organization...

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