The thing that has always gotten to me about the Venezuelan government under Chavismo has been the incompetence. It is just a mess. You did not need to have electricity shortages caused by freezing rates to the extent that power consumption became free. (Rates have been frozen since 2002. Electricity in Venezuela costs 0.11 bolívares per kWh — at the black market exchange rate, that’s ... uh ... 0.13 cents. This is down from 18.4¢ when the government froze rates.) You did not need to create a crazy exchange rate scheme. You did not need to allow inflation to accelerate. You did not need to send all this money overseas to no political benefit.
The problem isn’t that the goals of the Bolivian Revolution necessarily involve a bad economy or high crime or a stupid foreign policy. It is that they cannot figure out how to accomplish whatever goals they may have. Hell, if you tasked me with building socialism or uniting with Cuba or whatever, I could do a better job. It’s just a mysterious incompetence.
Which brings us to the recent tragic deaths. It is terrible. But demonstrations do get out of control. So it would be very easy for the government to regret the deaths, blame the protestors and continue its crackdown without screaming treason and issuing warrants for opposition leaders. Or censoring Twitter ... which gains you nothing but bad press.
Why ratchet things up? One possible answer, consistent with everything else, is incompetence. Chávez was never incompetent at domestic politics. Maduro is not so skilled. So maybe he is just making mistakes.
Or perhaps he is acting quite deliberately. Javier Corrales, a very smart guy, thinks that ratcheting up the tension will allow Maduro to unite his coalition.
For that to be true, however, you would need to believe that the one-two punch of the economy and crime was on the verge of destabilizing his coalition.
So ... how would know whether that was true?