Antigovernment protests have dissipated and the president faces few short-term challenges to his rule
CARACAS, Venezuela—Wuilly Arteaga became a symbol of Venezuela’s protest movement as he played patriotic hymns from his violin in the face of tear gas and rubber bullets. Then he was arrested and beaten.
When the 23-year-old was released after three weeks, he was stunned to find the protest movement had died and President Nicolás Maduro in greater control than ever.
“It looks like hope is gone,” said Mr. Arteaga this week, bruises visible on his left cheek. “I feel like everything is so dark, I don’t see an exit.”
Five months of violent antigovernment demonstrations have dissipated and the epicenter in Caracas, Plaza Altamira, sits eerily quiet. The barricades that opponents once set up to slow government armored vehicles are gone. Rumors of a military uprising are gone. And life has returned to normal, with people struggling to find enough to eat in a country stricken by shortages.
Despite an 80% disapproval rating, Mr. Maduro seemingly faces few short-term challenges to his rule just a month after he drew international condemnation by installing his allies into a new rubber-stamp assembly.
The government’s crackdown on protesters—including widespread arrests and torture, human-rights groups and victims say—has broken the once-potent protest movement. The protests claimed more than 125 lives and nearly 2,000 wounded, including scores with permanent injuries.
Clockwise from top, opposition activist Wuilly Arteaga played the violin during a antigovernment protest in Caracas, was in a hospital in July after being injured during a protest and sat in August after spending three weeks in detention. Photo: federico parra/AFP-Getty; ROBERT CARMONA-BORJAS/AFP-Getty; Ryan Dube/The Wall Street Journal