Leopoldo Lopez

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Three years ago, Venezuela’s socialist regime jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López for leading anti-government protests – and also tried to imprison López’s top lieutenant, Carlos Vecchio.

But Vecchio went into hiding and then into exile in South Florida. From here Vecchio helps lead López’s party, Voluntad Popular, or Popular Will.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Anti-government unrest in Venezuela has entered its sixth week – with almost 40 people killed. Venezuelans in South Florida are also turning up the volume against the socialist regime – and Florida Governor Rick Scott joined them Monday night in Doral.

Hundreds of expats sang the Venezuelan national anthem outside the Arepazo Dos restaurant in support of massive street protests back home. They want the ouster of left-wing President Nicolás Maduro, whom they blame for political repression and Venezuela’s economic collapse.

Ariana Cubillos / AP via Miami Herald

The vast Caracas slum known as Catia was a cradle of the late Hugo Chávez’s socialist revolution. Now it looks more like his regime’s coffin.

Few barrios have been hit as hard by Venezuela’s economic and social collapse after 17 years of left-wing rule. By the world’s highest inflation rate. By South America’s worst murder rate. By an orgy of government corruption. And by the long and beleaguering lines people endure every day for scarce food and medicine – a perverted postcard from the Western Hemisphere’s most oil-rich nation.

Flickr

Caracas suffered another big power outage on Tuesday. The blackout shut down a hospital and a metro line and left large swaths of the Venezuelan capital without juice for much of the day.

One official response could be an upgrade of oil-rich Venezuela’s antiquated power grid. Another might be more spurious arrests of opposition politicians.

I’m betting on the latter.

That’s because the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro seems much more skilled at finding scapegoats than at fixing problems.

C.M. Guerrero / El Nuevo Herald

Leopoldo López is a rock star among Venezuelans in South Florida. But in west Caracas he's the rich guy. And those contrasting images could affect the outcome of street protests playing out in Venezuela right now.

But first the obvious: This week’s arbitrary arrest of López, a top Venezuela opposition leader, is a reminder that President Nicolás Maduro’s already scant credibility is evaporating during the anti-government demonstrations that have swept his country since Feb. 12.