CARACAS (Reuters) - In a curious convergence of events on the same day last week, four Venezuelan provincial courts issued identical rulings, state governors quickly hit Twitter to celebrate, then the election board emailed a short but bombshell statement.
Opposition hopes for a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro were dashed, on grounds of fraud in an initial signature drive. The vote was off.
For many in the opposition, that settled a years-old debate about the nature of Venezuela's socialist government, uniting them in conviction they are now fighting a dictatorship.
Their new militancy heightens the risk of unrest as the South American OPEC member of 30 million people grapples with a dangerous economic and political crisis.
"Can anyone in the world now really doubt that Venezuela is living in tyranny?" said housewife Mabel Pinate, 62, dressed in white among thousands of protesters who took to the streets against Maduro on Wednesday.
"We are sick of this. It's time to toughen up and do what we must to save Venezuela," added Pinate, whose husband was fired from state oil company PDVSA by Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez and whose two children have gone abroad. READ MORE