Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó appeared Tuesday with troops at a Caracas military base to announce a “final phase” to remove President Nicolás Maduro from office. Whether we have entered the final phase of removing Maduro, or indeed whether he will be removed at all, remains to be seen. But, as the leftists of my youth used to say, “if you don’t push it, it won’t fall.
The Washington Post provides a list of the things it says we know:
● Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton expressed U.S. support for the opposition.
● Maduro said the military has remained loyal; government leaders denounced a “coup” attempt by a “reduced group of military officials” and warned of a “counterattack.”
● Guaidó urged supporters to take to the streets for “nonviolent” action and claimed to have a list of names of military officials who support him.
● Tear gas was fired in clashes between the sides, and one hospital said it was treating six people for injuries.
What we don’t know is whether a critical mass within the military supports the removal of Maduro. That, I think, is the key question.
As noted above, the U.S. support Guaidó. Vice President Pence tweeted, ““Estamos con ustedes! We are with you!” However, the U.S. doesn’t seem prepared to support the overthrow of Maduro with its troops (nor should it be, in my view). Therefore, our words may not count for much. We were also “with” the Hungarian people when they rose up against Soviet domination in 1956.
The Hill reports that, according to Secretary of State Pompeo, Maduror’s inner circle is looking for an “exit strategy” in Venezuela. That’s the prudent thing to do. But it doesn’t mean they will need to use one, only that they are taking precautions.
Given the almost unimaginable deterioration of living conditions in Venezuela, one might well think that Maduro’s removal is inevitable. But military members may believe that they personally will fare better under the current regime than under one headed by Guaidó.
Some military leaders may believe that a “third way,” in the form of a military coup, is the best option. For them, the smart play might be to quash the present uprising, dispense with Guaidó, and make their move later on.
I don’t know whether anyone is seriously considering this option. However, in theory, at least, the removal of Maduro does not entail the installation of Guaidó.
I believe his installation is the best option for Venezuela, though. Let’s hope he succeeds with the bold bid he’s making today.