This week, WOLA Senior Fellow and Tulane University Professor David Smilde published a study for the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program through which he traces the evolution of Venezuela’s chavismo from its beginnings as a version of left populism based on the charisma of former President Hugo Chávez, to its turn toward socialism, to its current authoritarian incarnation under Nicolás Maduro.

Smilde argues that a “starting assumption in analyzing such an authoritarian context should be stability, not change. However, there are still spaces and resources that provide opportunities for working for a return to democracy.”

Maduro’s unpopular regime has sought to keep power, on the one hand, by preventing the rise of independent moderates within its ranks and by forging new international alliances, and, on the other hand, by undermining Venezuela’s electoral institutions, repressing opposition politicians and activists, and restricting and manipulating mass and digital media.

Nevertheless, Smilde argues that Maduro’s control over his coalition and Venezuelan society is far from complete. He suggests that the existence of a weakened but still active political opposition, a dynamic civil society, and widespread democratic values in the population are assets that keep the search for a democratic outcome alive.

Read the full publication here.