All this year, as they trudged through an unprecedented economic implosion, Venezuelans have been gearing up for what was meant to be the defining political event of the year: a referendum on whether to recall our increasingly loathed authoritarian president, Nicolás Maduro. The tense buildup suddenly ended Thursday as five separate (and supposedly independent, but c’mon now) lower courts approved injunctions to suspend the recall, closing down Venezuela’s last best hope for a peaceful solution to its long-running political crisis.

Even for battle-hardened Venezuelans, it all came as quite a shock. A major signature-gathering drive to officially activate the recall vote was scheduled for next week. Opposition activists were busy preparing their plans to get out their voters to sign. No one, not even the military, seemed to have been expecting this.

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Image courtesy of Reuters

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