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Here’s Why This Might Be Venezuela’s Last Chance to Push Maduro Out

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The dust hasn’t settled yet from this week’s clashes in Caracas, Venezuela, after
interim-president Juan Guaidó claimed to have the backing of the
armed forces and called on Venezuelans to join him for a final push
to oust Nicolás Maduro. It was the greatest challenge to the rule
of Maduro since he consolidated his dictatorship in 2017, but the
uprising has failed to achieve its goal — for now, at
least.

Unfortunately, even with the support from some members of the
military, the corruption inherent in Venezuela’s socialist system
is a strong defense against a democratic uprising.

Some observers blame Guaidó and his mentor, Leopoldo López — who was under house
arrest but was freed by the intelligence officers in charge of his
custody — for overplaying their hand. However, we don’t know
the exact circumstances under which they made the decision to
launch a civic-military uprising.

People are getting into
survival mode, more consumed with securing food and water than
toppling the Maduro regime.

Guaidó’s freedom is increasingly under threat after the regime
stripped him of his parliamentary immunity and
threatened to jail him. The protests he has led in previous months
— though massive — were mostly peaceful and didn’t pose
a threat to Maduro’s narco-dictatorship. As the economy continues
to collapse with day-long blackouts bringing the country to a halt, people are getting into
survival mode, more consumed with securing food and water than
toppling the regime. In the standoff between Maduro and Venezuela’s
democratic forces, time is on the regime’s side.

Coordinating and executing a successful military uprising in
Venezuela is extremely difficult. The top brass of the military is
a criminal organization deeply involved in corruption, extortion, smuggling and
drug trafficking
. An incompetent general runs the dwindling but
still profitable oil business — output collapsed to 732,000 barrels per day in March, a steep
consistent decline& since 2013. The U.S.
Treasury Department labels several generals as drug-kingpins: a
significant chunk, if not most of Colombia’s cocaine production now
goes through Venezuela. Thus, the incentives of
the rank and file of the military to switch their loyalty to
Guaidó, despite offers of amnesty, are almost nil.

Cuban influence in Venezuela

There is growing dissatisfaction among the troops. After all,
their relatives are not immune to the humanitarian crisis. About
1,000
Venezuelan soldiers
have defected to Colombia just this year.
However, there are reports that their families back home have been
harassed and tortured, raising the cost of
turning against the regime. But the greatest challenge is the
presence of thousands of Cuban operative embedded in the armed forces
— a fact acknowledged by President Donald Trump and disputed by Cuban diplomat Carlos Fernández de
Cossío. Havana’s decades-old Communist dictatorship is Maduro’s
closest ally, and by all accounts runs the show in Caracas. Cuba
has one of the most sophisticated and ruthless intelligence
services in the world. Venezuelan troops are closely watched and
the price for any sign of disloyalty is steep: imprisonment and
torture.

Venezuela’s democratic forces are aware of the odds. They also
know that this week’s events are a turning point for them. Despite
being recognized by
over 50 nations
as the country’s legitimate president, Guaidó
could be jailed at any moment. This might be the last chance to
push Maduro out of power in the foreseeable future. Despite the
welcome pressure of most of the international community,
particularly the U.S., the future of Venezuela lays in the hands of
Venezuelans themselves. Either they answer Guaidó’s dramatic call
to topple the dictatorship, or they risk oppression and misery for
many years to come.



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