In this interview with BBC World News, Michael Shifter analyzes the situation in Venezuela the day when the Andean country erupts in its “Mother Of All Protests”, leaving three dead and many injured.

Comments by Michael Shifter:

“People have been predicting that President Maduro’s days are numbered for a long time – and he holds on. He holds on because he has power. This is the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, it is a government were many officials are involved in the drug trade and other criminal activities, the arm forces are back with the government, the opposition is divided… so the all hold on to power.”

“Capriles has been banned for 15 years and another opposition leader is in prison, Leopoldo Lopez. The government is using very hard taught tactics in order to stay in power and gain control.”

“The countries around Venezuela are beginning to wake up to the reality. It has been very slow, and I think disappointing. They were hoping that this was going to work itself out, but these situations don’t work themselves out, and in fact they get worse, and Venezuela has deteriorated dramatically. There are some pretty awful scenarios that one could contemplate, so other countries are beginning to step up, especially countries like Mexico, Argentina, Peru, even Brazil and Colombia, which had been silent before. The pressure is mounting on the Maduro government.”

“The situation inside the country is dire – every account that one reads, every person that one talks to, describe a very dramatic terrible situation and people are struggling to eat and get through the days. Many are going hungry, they are picking out garbage in order to eat, and they are going without meals. There are also a lot of people that are trying to leave the country. They are going to Colombia on one side, to Brazil on the other side, and those numbers are increasing. There is a sense of desperation which is much greater than what it has ever been before.”

“This regime cannot sustain itself without support from the army. The army also has divisions, but at least the senior officials seem to be closing ranks, and many of them have vested interests. They are making a lot of money from oil and the drug trade, as well as other criminal activities.”