After a roller-coaster year in which it became an international pastime to predict his downfall, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has pulled off an improbable turnaround: He not only still occupies Miraflores Palace, but his party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, now controls every branch of government in the oil-rich nation.
This is, in large part, Maduro's doing. By marginalizing his rivals and creating a new legislative body stacked with his supporters, Maduro cut the legs off the opposition. But, in many ways, the opposition made this easy for him. They can't agree on anything, including whether to participate aggressively in elections or to reject them altogether. The ruling party swept municipal elections across the country this month — in part because the organized opposition, in an effort to mount a boycott, barely participated.
Even some of the opposition's diehard supporters are disillusioned. Manuel Melo, a 21-year-old graphic design student who participated regularly on the front lines of massive street protests this year — donning a mask and shield and helping build barricades — lost a kidney after being struck with a firehose in May.
"It was all in vain," Melo said. "People in the opposition just fight among themselves ... They're responsible for all these deaths — them and the government. They're responsible for all the wounded, for all the disillusionment. For the fact that Venezuela feels lost — because there's no one out there to save us."
This segment originally aired Dec. 15, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.