President Maduro has again been receiving intense criticism from the left wing of Chavismo, most notably in the opinion pieces at the website Aporrea. Top Chavista leadership is increasingly being questioned ahead of the upcoming Third Congress of the Socialist Party (PSUV), which will be held from July 26 to 28.

Before the opposition protest movement began in early February, Aporrea had been publishing pieces critical of Maduro’s stewardship of Chávez’s legacy. Maduro was strongly criticized for appointing militaries to important posts and for removing leftist leaders from office. Aporrea commentator Toby Valderrama even called on Maduro to publicly respond to allegations that the “internal right” had toned down Chávez’s political treatise, the “Plan de la Patria.”

However, the opposition protest movement muted internal criticism, as Chavismo closed ranks. But as the protests have decreased in the last two months the previous political dynamics have returned. Economic problems have again become central. Poll numbers released in May show that the government’s approval ratings have continued to decline with the general population. And internal tensions in Chavismo have reignited.

Last month internal criticism resurfaced in the Chavista independent media. A notable example is political commentator Nicmer Evans who published a piece on May 11, claiming that Maduro is sitting on a “scorpion’s nest” (nido de alacranes). Evans quotes poll numbers that point to 30% of government supporters who refuse to be called maduristas.

Evans also questions the government’s ability to win the so called “economic war” and asks: “How is it possible that after the Dakazo [Maduro’s anti-speculation measures in 2013] the government said that 99% of stores were speculating, but today when everything is costing even more, the government says that 87% of stores are abiding by the just prices policy?”

And, like Valderrama before him, Evans questions the loyalty of the current government to Chavez’s legacy, claiming that “nobody speaks of the communal state anymore.”

On May 20 Evans again wrote about dissatisfaction within Chavismo: “Our revolutionary process is in crisis, I have no doubt about that. It’s enough to walk the streets every day and tap the opinion of people that used to shout ‘even with hunger or unemployment, I still support Chávez!’ but that today are displeased with the inefficiency and inefficacy of public institutions, with the incapacity to contain the so-called ‘economic war’, and rampant corruption (…), even after having asked for a law granting the President special powers [Ley Habilitante].”

Last week the “Frente Nacional de Colectivos Revolucionarios Sergio Rodríguez” a group that claims to represent dozens of colectivos, put out a press release criticizing the “cooptive” method by which the PSUV selects its leaders. The current directive was in part chosen by militants through an election process in March 2008, but President Chávez also directly appointed several of the directives in what was popularly called el dedazo. PSUV militants would like a more democratic method of elections. The “Frente” said it hopes its concerns will be addressed in the next party Congress.

But Maduro has responded to these internal critiques by claiming that they are part of a division strategy against the unity of the PSUV. Speaking this week about the next PSUV Congress he said that those asking for changes within the party are “always the same people, they show up every time there is an election process. (…) They [believe] in bourgeois democracy and in its anti-values of personal ambitions for power. They may dress in red [rojo rojito, the PSUV color], but they have the anti-values of capitalism in their heads.”

On June 8, commenting on the elections process of the party delegates to the coming PSUV Congress, Evans twitted (@NicmerEvans) “It is unfortunate that the only argument by the leadership of the PSUV for not standing by the people, as Chávez did, is that ‘elections are bourgeois.’”