After last Sunday's disputed electoral victory by Chávez heir Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela, it seemed, was a country on the brink. Many commentators assumed that further anarchy was unavoidable, positing mass unrest along the lines of the Arab Spring (in which the demonstrators triumphed) or post-election Iran in 2009 (where they didn't). Both scenarios, it should be noted, assumed an uptick in violence. As assumptions go, this was logical enough. In Venezuela, society is divided almost equally between pro-regime and anti-regime groups, and the confrontation between the irresistible force of passionate opposition and the immovable object of government intransigence seemed likely to result in the violent destruction of one or both.
And then, all at once, the immovable object moved, leaving the irresistible force a bit unsure about how to proceed....
In the immediate wake of the election, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles and his supporters called for a full recount of the votes, based on the extremely narrow margin of Maduro's victory. For days the National Electoral Council (CNE) -- a body that, while nominally independent, is dominated 4-1 by avowed government supporters -- had repeatedly declared itself firmly against that demand.
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