A surge of coup rumors -- another near-weekly feature of the political scene -- preceded the march earlier this month that was the largest since April. Two days later, a second large march by Chavez supporters served as a vivid demonstration of the country's internal divisions.
Although both protests proceeded smoothly, there were scattered outbreaks of violence. And last week in Caracas, a brewing controversy over the local police force -- controlled by Chavez opponents -- resulted in clouds of tear gas wafting through the center of the capital shortly after lunch one day.
Leaders from Chavez's political party say the police and military will be standing by today to prevent violence and that the government is ready to declare a state of emergency, if need be.
They accuse the opposition of threatening to attack businesses that open. Opposition figures have denied this and accused Chavez loyalists of threatening to attack any businesses that stay closed.
"This is not going to be a strike. It is sabotage," said William Lara, the president of the National Assembly and a close Chavez ally. "The opposition wants to establish chaos, but the state will respond with all the tools at its disposal."
Caught in the middle are Venezuela's poor and middle class. As the economy has contracted, unemployment has increased to 16%. That's one reason today's strike will be a test of the depth of the opposition to Chavez. Staying home will mean real sacrifice for many.
Taxi driver Pedro Cabrera said he would like to support the strike but cannot afford to.
"Compared to last year, I get up earlier, work later and earn less," Cabrera said as he drove through crowded downtown Caracas last week. "Neither the government nor Fedecamaras pays the bills. I do."