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By William Tucker
Columnist, In Homeland Security
Opposition leader and self-declared interim Venezuelan president Juan Guaidó went public on the morning of April 30 to declare that the “final phase of Operation Liberty” had begun. This is the first time Mr. Guaidó has been publicly seen with uniformed members of the military supporting his call to unseat President Nicolás Maduro, who has refused to leave office.
Perhaps the most notable person in a video of the event is not Guaidó, but Leopoldo Lopez, the jailed opposition leader who preceded and mentored Guaidó. The video was shot at the Caracas air base La Carlota, which is also notable because it suggests that Guaidó may have some military support.
Reactions from Abroad
Guaidó called on Venezuelans and the military to join him on the streets – a move the sitting government has called an attempted coup. International backers of Mr. Guaidó appear to still support him, but have called for a peaceful transition as opposed to a violent overthrow.
Members of the Trump administration in the U.S. have thrown their support behind the opposition publicly this morning. However, the U.S. has not shown any signs of direct intervention on the opposition’s behalf.
Situation with Guaidó and Coup Remains Fluid
Clashes on the streets are ongoing and the situation is fluid, but the onus is certainly on the opposition. If Maduro survives this challenge by the opposition, then his removal from office becomes substantially more difficult.
Since this is a fluid situation, here are a few items that bear monitoring:
- It’s not a coup until it is. A successful coup needs effective leadership and wide support from both civilians and government forces. Guaidó has called for the military to support the opposition, but until this morning, that call went unheeded. The exact amount of support from the military that Guaido commands is unknown.
- Protesters may be in the streets, but their loyalty/intent is not always clear. Western media, particularly English speakers, will find individuals on the street who speak their language. Those individuals do not represent the entire body of protesters, so take their observations as representing only that of individuals, not the entire country. Numerous Venezuelans want Mr. Maduro gone, but that does not mean they all agree on what should happen next.
- Coups fail and can devolve into a wider conflict. Coups throughout history are more prone to failure than success, but just because a coup fails does not always indicate an end to violence. Violence is certainly ratcheting up in some regions of Caracas, but, at the moment, we do not have a good read on how widespread the uprising is.
Maduro’s and Guaidó’s Powers in Venezuela Will Be Tested
Maduro and Guaidó are fighting for their political and literal lives, so both men will not give up easily. If Maduro survives this test, he will certainly be better off, but the problems faced by the nation will not go away anytime soon. The same goes for Guaido.
Additionally, there are foreign nations that have a vested interest in the outcome. If the conflict sways one way or another and threatens those foreign interests, then the possibility of outside intervention increases.
Ultimately, the outcome is not clear. However, this standoff has been a long time coming and will not be resolved anytime soon.