TIME animals

Wild Giant Pandas Making a Comeback in China

Mother giant panda Juxiao is seen with one of her triplets at Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou, Guangdong province
Reuters Mother giant panda Juxiao is seen with one of her triplets at Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, Dec. 9, 2014.

The population has grown by 268 despite many obstacles

The Chinese government has some good news for panda lovers.

A new survey by China’s State Forestry Administration indicates that the wild giant panda population has grown to 1,864, representing an increase of 268 pandas since 2003. The number of giant pandas in captivity also doubled.

The census, which took some three years to complete, reflects the country’s commitment to protecting an animal with a lot of obstacles against it: Pandas are slow to reproduce and historically have been a target for poachers, and, per the census, now have 832 miles of roads running through their habitats. China’s 27 preserves for pandas account for the growth.

[NBC News]

TIME russia

5 Disputed Numbers That Explain Geopolitics

Ukraine
Vadim Ghirda—AP Russia-backed separatist fighters stand next to self propelled 152 mm artillery pieces, part of a unit moved away from the front lines, in Yelenovka, near Donetsk, Ukraine, Feb. 26, 2015.

From Argentina’s economic woes to Iran’s nuclear timeline, statistics that are up for debate can tell us a lot about geopolitics. 

Every world leader uses data for political purposes. But some take it a step further. Here are five disputed stats where the controversy itself sheds light on a deeper political question.

1. How many Russians are in Ukraine?

Estimates of Russian troops in Ukraine differ dramatically depending on which side of the border you’re standing on. (That is, if you can find the border—Russian-backed separatists continue to take territory in southeast Ukraine). Ukrainian President Poroshenko proclaimed last month that there are more than 9,000 Russian troops and 500 tanks and armored vehicles in his country. But Russia claims it isn’t that many—zero, to be exact. According to a spokesman for Putin, “there are no Russian tanks or army in Ukraine.” Other players split the difference: in August, a separatist leader claimed that 3,000 to 4,000 Russian citizen “volunteers” provided assistance to the rebels.

(Reuters, CNN, LA Times)

2. How quickly could Iran build a nuclear weapon?

When Western leaders emphasize the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, there’s a recurring, essential question: How long would it take for Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a bomb? Iran consistently downplays the threat: an Iranian source cited the ‘breakout time’ at a minimum of 18 months. But Washington believes it’s drastically shorter: about 2-3 months. There’s also fierce debate about how long that breakout time should be. In ongoing nuclear negotiations, the Obama administration wants to ensure it would take at least a year. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to eliminate Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons altogether.

(Reuters, Institute for Science and International Security, New York Times)

3. Can China boast that its economy is #1?

Last year, the International Monetary Fund projected that China’s economy was about to overtake the United States’ when measured on a purchasing power basis (a less common way of measuring GDP that takes exchange rates into account). China became the world’s largest trading nation back in 2012. But even China is pushing back against any perception that it’s on top: the state-run news agency Xinhua ran a piece in January titled “China denies being world’s No. 1 economy.” Beijing is careful to stress that it’s still very much a developing country, not yet wealthy enough to take on a lot of global responsibilities. They have a point. Despite relentless growth—last year’s economic output topped $10 trillion, more than five times higher than a decade before—China’s output per person is still nowhere near that of the U.S.

(New York Times, Bloomberg, Xinhua, Economist)

4. Just how valuable for Americans would the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) be?

One of President Obama’s biggest foreign policy priorities before he leaves office is to ink the TPP, a trade agreement that includes a dozen countries that collectively account for 40% of world trade and roughly a third of global GDP. The administration is quick to point out the estimated economic benefits. According to John Kerry, “TPP could provide $77 billion a year in real income and support 650,000 new jobs in the U.S. alone.” But not everyone buys that jobs claim. The White House’s statistics come from a 2012 book by the Peterson Institute that didn’t provide a precise jobs estimate. The book’s author said he avoided doing so because, “like most trade economists, we don’t believe that trade agreements change the labor force in the long run.”

(Congressional Research Service, Washington Post)

5. How is Argentina’s economy doing?

Argentina’s economic troubles are common knowledge. So is the government’s tendency to cast the numbers in a rosier light. The government claimed 30% growth in GDP from 2007 to 2012 (5.3% annual average rate), but a study last year claimed that GDP only grew half that much and the size of the economy was at least 12% smaller than official government estimates. Then there’s the issue of inflation. The government estimates 21% inflation for this year—but some private economists expect a rate of nearly 40%. Furthermore, the government’s official exchange rate doesn’t reflect reality: one U.S. dollar is officially worth about 8.7 pesos, yet the informal rate is as high as 13.

(World Economics Journal, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, BNamericas, Bloomberg)

TIME Egypt

Egypt Court Declares Hamas ‘Terrorist Organization’

Palestinian members of al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, display weapons during a military parade marking the 27th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City
Suhaib Salem—Reuters Palestinian members of al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, display their weapons during a military parade marking the 27th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City Dec. 14, 2014. The Palestinian group has been declared a terrorist organization by an Egyptian court.

The Palestinian group once enjoyed support of Egypt's deposed Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt’s state news agency is reporting that a Cairo court has declared Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a “terrorist organization.”

The short report Saturday by MENA said the Court For Urgent Matters, presided over by Judge Mohamed el-Sayed, issued the ruling Saturday. It did not elaborate.

Last month, an Egyptian court banned Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, and also designated it a terrorist organization.

The ruling further isolates Hamas, which once found open support under Egypt’s toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Egypt’s new government recently has begun clearing a buffer zone along its border with Gaza in an attempt to destroy a cross-border network of tunnels that Hamas considers a lifeline.

In Gaza, Hamas official Mushir al-Masri condemned the decision and urged Egypt to reverse course.

 

TIME energy

How Much Crude Oil Do You Consume on a Daily Basis?

holding-petrol-pump
Getty Images

Most of America's daily crude consumption stems from transportation

Oil. The commodity. We know what it’s worth – at least we thought we did – but what does a barrel of the black stuff get you in real life? Before we get theoretical, let’s first consider how much oil you use.

If you’re in the United States, that figure is approximately 2.5 gallons of crude oil per day; roughly one barrel every seventeen days; or nearly 22 barrels per year. That’s just your share of US total consumption of course; the true number is harder to discern – minus industrial and non-residential uses, daily consumption drops to about 1.5 gallons per person per day. Subtract the percentage of the population aged 14 and below and the daily consumption climbs back above 2 gallons. This is big picture, and it’s quite variable, so let’s go further.

Most of the nation’s daily crude consumption stems from transportation. If you’re an average driver in an average car, your crude consumption is in the order of 12 barrels per year. However, if your car is more than ten years old, chances are that figure is closer to 15 barrels annually. Does an electric car offer significant savings? Of course it does, but for an unconventional comparison let’s assume all of the electricity is sourced from oil – in truth, petroleum is not a very efficient fuel and accounts for just 1 percent of electricity generation in the US. Under this assumption, a Tesla Model S, with an 85 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery and a range of 260 miles, will consume approximately 8 barrels of crude per year.

Read more: The World’s 10 Biggest Energy Gluttons

Frequent flyer? Say 2,000 miles per year on a US carrier? Add about two-thirds of a barrel of crude to your annual consumption.

A 3,000-mile cruise on the MS Oasis of the Seas may sound relaxing, but at roughly 4 barrels of crude per passenger, the carbon footprint alone is worth reviewing.

What about residential use? Using similar assumptions to the electric car example above, we can calculate our annual home electricity use in barrels of crude. In 2013, an average American home consumed 10,908 kWh of electricity, or approximately 20 barrels of crude. The real number – considering oil’s role in electricity generation – is far lower at around one-fifth of a barrel.

Petroleum products are active in nearly every facet of our daily lives; food and consumer chains are no exception. Take a look at bottled water for example. It’s an energy intensive business, one with an estimated energy expenditure of 32 million barrels of oil per year – for 33 billion liters of bottled water purchased in the US. The production of the single-use polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles alone requires the energy equivalent of almost 17 million barrels of oil.

Obtaining an accurate picture of your daily oil consumption is truthfully quite difficult. Your consumption is dependent on my consumption, which is dependent on someone’s consumption halfway around the globe to make a simple analogy. Moreover, consumption is largely bound by perception and the barrel is still a relatively abstract measure – few will ever lay hands on one. So for the sake of understanding, let’s look at what else a barrel gets you.

Read more: The Easy Oil Is Gone So Where Do We Look Now?

According to Chevron, one barrel of oil produces: 170 ounces of propane; 16 gallons of gasoline; one gallon of roofing tar; a quart of motor oil; 8 gallons of diesel fuel; 70 kWh of electricity; four pounds of charcoal briquettes; 27 wax crayons; and 39 polyester shirts.

For good measure, it can power a 42’’ plasma television for about a year and a half – again, it’s not very efficient. It can charge your laptop PC every day for over 7 years, or your iPhone for more than 240 years.

Finally, on the open market, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate will fetch around $50.

* 1 barrel = 42 U.S. gallons = 5,800,000 Btu
1 gallon gasoline = 124,262 Btu
1 gallon jet fuel = 128,100 Btu
1 barrel = 533 kWh (Power plant heat rate of 10,991 Btu/kWh)

Source: EIA and EIA and EIA

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

More from Oilprice.com:

TIME Cuba

Cuba Talks Turn Awkward Over Terror Listing

President Obama Holds End-Of-Year News Conference At The White House
Alex Wong—Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 19: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during his speech to members of the media during his last news conference of the year in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House December 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama faced questions on various topics including the changing of Cuba policy, his executive action on immigration and the Sony hack. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Another round of talks, another round of smiles Friday, as negotiators for Cuba and the United States joined in stepping carefully around the first obvious obstacle to emerge in their joint effort to re-establish diplomatic relations.

The latest meeting was only their second, this time in Washington. Diplomats from both countries crowded around an array of tables at the State Department for what U.S. officials cautioned in advance would be a more “workmanlike” session, less dramatic than the historic inaugural session in Havana in January. That was the first since Presidents Obama and Raúl Castro surprised the world by announcing an intention to reconcile in parallel announcements Dec. 17.

At the time, Obama signaled what sounded very much like an inclination to remove Cuba from the short, brutish roll of nations the State Department lists as official sponsors of terror: The only other countries saddled with the designation are Iran, Syria and Sudan. “At a time when we are focused on threats from Al Qaeda to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction,” Obama said. But actually removing a nation from the list, and freeing it from the attendant sanctions, turns out to be taking longer than expected. “On why it’s taking so long, I’ve got to tell you it’s just these processes tend to be a little bit more complicated than they seem, and that’s all I’m going to say,” a senior State Department official said in a telephone briefing with reporters on Wednesday.

The consequences of the delay may only be atmospheric, but mood has been one of the things the Obama administration has had going for it on this story. The head of the Cuban delegation, Josefina Vidal, said at the close of Friday’s session that removal from the list was not a strict precondition to resuming ties, but repeated that it is “a very important issue” to Havana, which has harped on it both publicly and privately. And privately,the terror list may indeed have been mentioned as a precondition to re-opening embassies: “It would be very easy to restore diplomatic relations,” the State Department official said in the background briefing with reporters, “if they would not link those two things.”

What’s more, a 45-day interval built into the assessment process means that Cuba will still carry the designation when Castro and Obama meet at the Summit of the Americas, set for the second week of April in Panama City. The confab was envisioned as a celebratory session that marked the end not only of the 50-year cold war between countries, but also of Washington’s estrangement from a Latin American establishment that largely esteems Havana.

The delay clearly pleases Congressional critics of the reconciliation, led by favorites of the Cuban exile community based in Miami. “President Obama and his negotiating team need to stop looking so desperate to secure a deal with the Castro regime to open an embassy in Havana, at any cost, before this April’s Summit of the Americas,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who also noted the arrest of 200 dissidents in Cuba the previous two weeks. Detentions of activists, often held only a short time, remains routine in Havana, the State Department has noted, and U.S. officials take pains to pay respectful visits to some of the island’s most prominent dissidents.

But on the narrow question of re-establishing diplomatic ties, the nominal point of the talks, both sides appear to be on the same page. “On the issue of the themes on the agenda that were of concern to us, I think we did make progress on a number of them,” said Assistant Secretary of State Robert Jacobson after the meeting. “Some of them, quite honestly, are close to resolution.” Vidal said much the same in a separate news conference. And the negotiators, at least, appeared intent on sustaining the gestures of good will that began in December with an exchange of prisoners, and is supposed to proceed to an exchange of ambassadors. Said Jacobson, in answer to question: “I do think we can get this done in time for the Summit of the Americas.”

TIME russia

Kremlin Critic Gunned Down in Moscow Ahead of Anti-Putin March

Russia Opposition Leader Killed
Pavel Golovkin—AP People lay flowers at the place where Boris Nemtsov, a charismatic Russian opposition leader and sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 28, 2015.

The Russian President has pledged to oversee the investigation

The Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in Moscow around midnight on Friday as he walked within view of the Kremlin walls.

Soon after the gunshots rang out in the heart of the Russian capital, President Vladimir Putin was informed of the murder, which he characterized as a “provocation.” Through his spokesman, Putin told Russian news agencies early on Saturday morning that, “This cruel killing has all the signs of a hired hit and bears the distinctive character of a provocation.”

Though numerous Kremlin critics have been assassinated during Putin’s tenure, none have been as prominent as the 55-year-old Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister in the administration of Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. His killing will likely galvanize the opposition movement and once again test the ability and willingness of Russian authorities to investigate acts of violence against Putin’s opponents. Such crimes have tended to go unsolved since Putin took power 15 years ago.

According to police and investigators in Moscow, Nemtsov was shot several times as he crossed the bridge that leads to the southern gates of the Kremlin fortress. Police said they have launched a citywide manhunt for the assailants, who escaped the scene of the crime in a white car.

Nemtsov’s murder took place two days before he and his allies in the opposition were due to lead a massive march in Moscow on Sunday against the Putin regime. The demonstration, as well as parallel protests in more than a dozen cities across the country, is meant to condemn Putin’s handling of the ongoing conflict with the West over Ukraine and the damage it has done to Russia’s economy.

Outrage poured in from the ranks of Russia’s opposition movement as news of the murder spread. “I’m certain that this scum will pay a high price,” said Nemtsov’s close friend and ally Mikhail Kasyanov, a former Russian Prime Minister. “Right now every member of the opposition needs society’s protection,” he told the state news agency Tass.

TIME russia

Russian Opposition Leader Shot Dead

Rallies Held In Moscow Ahead of Secession Vote
Sasha Mordovets—Getty Images Russian opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov speaks during a rally against the policies and intervention in Ukraine and a possible war in Crimea, on March 15.

Boris Nemtsov served as deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin

A leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin was shot and killed in central Moscow on Friday.

Boris Nemtsov, a deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin, was killed by an unidentified attacker, Russia’s Interfax news agency reports.

President Barack Obama condemned Nemtsov’s murder in a statement Friday. “I admired Nemtsov’s courageous dedication to the struggle against corruption in Russia and appreciated his willingness to share his candid views with me when we met in Moscow in 2009,” he said.

Nemtsov, 55, was a prominent opposition member who was previously considered an economic reformer as governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The opposition has been planning a “Spring” rally on March 1 that aims to draw 100,000 people to the march in Moscow.

TIME Iraq

ISIS May Have Committed Genocide Against Iraq Minorities, Report Says

IRAQ-CONFLICT-IS-YAZIDIS
SAFIN HAMED—AFP/Getty Images Members of the Yazidi minority search for clues on February 3, 2015, that might lead them to missing relatives in the remains of people killed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, a day after Kurdish forces discovered a mass grave near the Iraqi village of Sinuni, in the northwestern Sinjar area.

"Many minority communities continue to live under the threat of mass killing in Iraq," an advocate said

The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has systematically targeted minorities in Iraq and may be guilty of committing genocide, a new report from human rights groups says.

The report aims to shed light on the atrocities committed against minority religious groups, including Christians, Yazidis and Turkmen. Based largely on eyewitness accounts and field visits across Iraq, the report says ISIS has committed summary executions, sexual violence and torture that amount to crimes against humanity and possibly genocide.

“Information exists which would support a prima facie case that ISIS forces have committed the crime of genocide against religious minorities in northern Iraq, in particular against the Yezidi minority,” the report says.

The report, released in Brussels on Friday, comes days after ISIS kidnapped at least 90 Assyrian Christian men, women and children in Syria.

MORE: Inside ISIS, a TIME Special Report

ISIS overran large swathes of Iraq last summer and seized the Iraqi city of Mosul in June. Reports of the group’s persecution of the Yazidi population in the country’s north in August helped pushed the White House to launch airstrikes against the extremist group, but the report says the minority groups continue to be at risk even as the U.S.-led coalition air-strikes have halted ISIS’s advance in Iraq. It calls on the international community to provide more support to Iraq’s displaced and persecuted minorities and to bring the ISIS perpetrators to justice.

‘While military action against ISIS dominates the headlines, to date there has been no serious effort to bring the perpetrators of crimes against minorities to justice,” William Spencer, director of the Institute of International Law and Human Rights, said in a statement. The report was co-authored by IILHR, Minority Rights Group International, No Peace Without Justice and The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.

Thousands of minority women and girls have been raped and forced into marriage, and the minority groups represent a disproportionate number of the more than 2 million people who have been displaced since January 2014, the report found. About 8,000 civilians were killed in the last six months of 2014, according to the United Nations.

“Many minority communities continue to live under the threat of mass killing in Iraq,” Mays Al-Juboori, civilian rights officer at MRG, said in a statement.

TIME Turkey

Families of ISIS Fighters Speak Out

Turkish relatives TIME about their loved ones who have gone to fight in Syria

Kurds in Turkey have been a leading force in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in recent months. While Kurds have shown robust resistance to the brutal tactics of ISIS, some youths within the Kurdish population have joined the ranks of the the militant group and of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra front.

“I tried to convince him not to go,” said Hamza Beluk, the brother of an Al-Nusra fighter. “But he didn’t want to change his mind. He wasn’t a bad person.”

Family members that have seen their sons and brothers head off to Syria shy away from discussing their relatives’ departures, which runs counter to Kurdish efforts in the region. Though fearing reprisals from organizations like the PKK (Kurdistan’s Workers Party), a Kurdish separatist terrorist organization, some families have nevertheless spoken out decrying their relatives’ decision.

MORE: Inside ISIS, a TIME Special Report

Filit Tok, a Kurd from Bingol, Turkey, and the father of an al-Nusra fighter who died while with the militant group, said that he blames al-Qaeda for his son’s death. “They took him away from me,” Tok said. “They knew that if they took him there he would die. They didn’t care.”

Kurdish fighters have not been the only ones joining the ranks of ISIS. In the past years, fighters from around the globe have traveled to Iraq and Syria into the thousands to fuel the ranks of the Islamist group. But the presence of Kurdish fighters in the extremist militant group increasingly divides the Kurdish population.

With no end in sight to the conflict with ISIS, Kurds in the border region of southern Anatolia are increasingly worried about the appeal of ISIS on some of their youths.

 

 

 

TIME Venezuela

Venezuela Is Slowly Coming Apart—and President Nicolas Maduro May Pay the Price

A boy with blood on his chest kneels in front of police after 14-year-old student Kluiver Roa died during a protest in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Feb. 24, 2015.
Carlos Eduardo Ramirez—Reuters A boy with blood on his chest kneels in front of police after 14-year-old student Kluiver Roa died during a protest in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Feb. 24, 2015.

Hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods have Venezuelans angry—and looking for new leadership

CARACAS – Amid the death of a 14-year-old boy killed by a policeman during anti-government unrest, the arrest of a key opposition mayor by armed government intelligence agents and talk of a coup plot against the government spearheaded by Washington, this last week also saw another another turn in Venezuela’s growing crisis. At DolarToday, a website little known outside of Venezuela that has become a key indicator of the country’s black market exchange rate, the bolívar local currency passed the psychological barrier of 200 per greenback. Four years ago, the dollar cost eight bolívares per dollar; five months ago it was 100; now it is already at 221 and counting. This rapid deterioration in the value of the local currency, 61% drop against the dollar over the last year, is one of the best indicators of just how much trouble Venezuela—and President Nicolas Maduro—is in.

While many in Venezuela have little direct engagement with the dollar—the country’s foreign exchange is strictly controlled—the currency crisis pervades everyday life. It means many doctors and engineers earn the equivalent of just a dollar a day and prefer instead to drive taxis or smuggle pasta or gas across the border to Colombia. It means that those who want to buy basic goods for their families must line up for hours every day due to shortages, and hoping all the time that shelves won’t be empty. It means that stealing is more valuable than working, fueling one of the world’s highest crime rates and the murder of one police officer nearly every day.

It means that people like Yormina Alguilera, a street cleaner earning the same as the minimum wage of doctor or engineer, are giving up. “We’re in crisis,” she said, taking a break from the sun at a fruit stall in the square at Caracas’ 23 de enero barrio, as murals of Che Guevara and Hugo Chávez loom over. Alguilera voted for Maduro and his predecessor Chávez, “but never again,” she said. “At least under Chávez I could get things. It’s a mess with Maduro and there’s no end in sight. Things are getting worse every day.”

Maduro, who was elected after the death of Chávez in 2013, is in serious trouble. His approval ratings are in the low twenties, according to Datanálisis, a respected local pollster. This time last year, the president faced down Venezuela’s biggest anti-government protests in more than a decade, and now they appear to be starting up again. In San Cristóbal, on the country’s border with Colombia and where unrest was sparked last February by similar though less severe economic problems, 14-year-old Kluiberth Roa was killed with a rubber bullet by police. That tragedy has only sparked further public anger.

Supermarket lines often run into the hundreds if not thousands due to shortages of the most basic goods, from shampoo to condoms. Inflation last year was near 70%. The economy, which has long been propped up by high crude prices, is crumbling as oil has tumbled over the last few months. (A barrel of Venezuela oil sells for half what it did a year ago; the country obtains 96% of foreign currency from oil.) Maduro has blamed this on an “economic war” being waged by the opposition with a hand from the United States, but many ordinary Venezuelans don’t believe that. “They talk about an economic war but we’re certainly not winning it,” said Aida Guedez Álvarez, a 61-year-old housewife buying a watermelon in 23 de enero. “I voted for Maduro but I’ve been deceived, like everybody else.”

Maduro’s government faces tough legislative elections later this year. “The government isn’t necessarily falling but it is weak and losing its leadership,” said Reinaldo Manrique, 24, an accounting student and student leader who was one of the very first detained for protesting in San Cristóbal, last year, sparking nationwide unrest. “But you know what? The leaders of the opposition are even more weak.”

Though former Chavistas are much angrier than they were a year ago, they do not see the opposition, led loosely by two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, as a viable alternative. “Of course I’d never vote for Capriles,” said Alguilera, the street cleaner. “I give up. No one will change things.” Rather than protest, students are talking of finishing their studies and leaving the country. Many who took to the streets last year have left. “I’m studying to become a primary teacher,” said Leonardo Díaz, 25, in Caracas’ Plaza Altamira, a bastion of protest. “But as soon as I graduate, I’ll leave. All my friends at university are the same.”

Capriles, who stood against both Chávez and Maduro in presidential elections, is the more moderate face of the opposition. He continues to govern the state of Miranda and at least on paper lead the opposition. The government has cracked down on its more hardline critics. Leopoldo López, a major opposition heavyweight, has remained behind bars for more than a year for his role in inciting last year’s protests. “The government is working in a barbaric way to steal from public funds, destroy the country, rob the country’s oil while it says it’s constructing a homeland!” López’s father, also called Leopoldo, told TIME. Antonio Ledezma, Caracas’ mayor, was arrested and charged earlier this month in a conspiracy to overthrow Maduro.

María Corina Machado, another more radical leader, was charged in December with involvement in a plot to assassinate Maduro. “With Maduro there is more persecution than ever,” she told TIME. Next on the government’s list appears to be Julio Borges, an opposition party coordinator. The government requested a probe into his alleged conspiracies against Maduro this week. “Every year there are elections but this is the first time the government is up with a political crisis of this magnitude,” Borges told TIME. “In Venezuela everyone is scared—including the government.”

Maduro has remained tough. “Every fascist has his day,” the president said on Ledezma’s arrest. And he still has some support. As he completed a crossword on a park bench in the wealthy La Castellana area of Caracas, Emilio Neumann backed the government’s stance. “Lopez and Ledezma are exactly where they deserve to be, behind bars,” said the 69-year-old public administrator. “After calling so many people to the streets and committing who knows how many murders.”

President Maduro must hope, if he is to see out the next couple of years, that he can persuade people like Neumann to stay on side. To do this he must turn the country’s economy around, though with three official exchange rates as well as a black market on the dollar — with a spread between the highest and lowest of them of some 3,400 per cent — it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. Pragmatic moves such as consolidating those exchange rates or raising the price of gas, currently the world’s lowest at just a few cents per tank, are politically dangerous especially when Chavistas are turning away from Maduro.

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