Phil Gunson is a writer and consultant on Latin America who has lived in Venezuela since 1999. As a freelance reporter he was correspondent for The Economist for most of that period and is now Senior Analyst (Andes Program) for the International Crisis Group.
Venezuela is on the edge. In a stunning defeat of the country’s ruling party—the greatest setback in over ten years for the movement created by the late Hugo Chávez—voters overwhelmingly supported the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. The outcome, which exceeded the opposition’s most optimistic forecasts, gives the MUD sufficient control of parliament to precipitate a standoff with President Nicolás Maduro and his Chavista supporters. With the country already in economic crisis, this could set off serious political unrest; or it could force both sides into a negotiated transition.