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Guaido’s Desperate Gamble

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has gambled on sparking a military uprising against Maduro today:

Anti-government protesters and law enforcement officers clashed in Caracas on Tuesday after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó appeared alongside soldiers at a military base and called for the population to rise up against the president.

“Today, brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men attached to the Constitution have followed our call,” Mr. Guaidó said in a video posted on social media, speaking from Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda Air Base, a military airport in Caracas known as La Carlota, in a direct challenge to the government.

He has called before for the military to rise up against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, but doing so flanked by men in uniform, at a base in the heart of the capital, was a new step. With few exceptions, the military has so far protected Mr. Maduro.

Guaido’s previous gambles to trigger large-scale military defections from the government have either not worked or backfired. The opposition’s attempt to weaponize aid deliveries and force their way in from Colombia failed. Guaido was able to reenter the country later, but his return did not appear to have any effect on military support for the regime. This one doesn’t appear any more likely to succeed. For all intents and purposes, Guaido is trying to launch a coup without having already secured significant support from the military. The most likely result is that some soldiers defect to Guaido’s cause, but not enough to force Maduro from power. Guaido may be hoping to provoke a crackdown that can be used as a pretext for outside intervention:

To their discredit, the Trump administration and other Venezuela hawks are recklessly egging Guaido on:

Either the Trump administration is setting Guaido up for a fall, and they are urging the opposition on to get slaughtered, or they are trying to create an excuse for military intervention that would be a disaster for Venezuela. Guaido has been led to expect U.S. assistance, but there is no good reason for the U.S. to further escalate and militarize this crisis. The Trump administration blundered into this regime change policy with no consideration of the consequences, and one way or another the people of Venezuela are being made to pay the price.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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