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The Failed Attempt at Regime Change in Venezuela

Lack of success in taking power and a corruption scandal have further weakened Juan Guaido’s position:

Last month, Guaido struggled to launch a new wave of street protests. Attendance was a fraction of the crowds he drew earlier this year.

His flagging momentum has caused some of his fellow lawmakers to start jostling for a new leadership battle, though most have not yet started criticizing him publicly, according to interviews with analysts and politicians.

“The political reality we have had in Venezuela for the last 10 months has finished,” said Dimitris Pantoulas, a Caracas-based political analyst. “It’s the end of this era of harmony and unity.”

It has been more than ten months since Guaido laid claim to the title of interim president of Venezuela, and in that time his support in the country has dwindled and Maduro and his allies appear to be firmly entrenched in power. No matter how many times foreign governments say that they recognize him as Venezuela’s leader, the fact that he has no real control over anything in the country has been a crippling flaw in the effort to depose Maduro. Guaido’s popular support has taken quite a hit over the course of the year, and the corruption scandal involving opposition legislators from his party will probably cause it to keep dropping:

Meanwhile, Maduro’s grip on power seems to be strengthening. According to local pollster Datanalisis, Guaido’s support had already dipped from 61% in February to 42% in November – before news of the scandal broke.

Guaido’s support was already waning because he has proven unable to deliver what he promised. Even though he does not appear to be personally involved in the alleged corruption, it reflects badly on his party and his leadership. The scandal has disillusioned many Venezuelans and battered Guaido’s reputation:

To a dozen Venezuelans interviewed by Reuters around the country, the scandal has marked another blow to Guaido’s reputation and to their hopes of seeing the back of the deeply unpopular Maduro, who has presided over a five-year economic crisis and an expanding authoritarian state.

For Mario Silva, an engineer waiting by a bus stop in the crumbling western city of Maracaibo, it was time to move on. “Guaido missed his moment,” the 60-year-old said.

The longer that Maduro holds on to power, the more likely it is that Guaido’s support will continue to erode. At some point, our government and Guaido’s other backers have to reconsider a regime change policy that was based entirely on wishful thinking. We also need to recognize that using the blunt, indiscriminate weapon of economic warfare on an entire country to force political change is wrong. The U.S. needs to rescind the broad sanctions that have been punishing the Venezuelan people, and there needs to be an oil-for-food program created with safeguards to prevent it from fueling more corruption. As U.S. sanctions exacerbate what was already a serious economic and humanitarian crisis, how much longer will the U.S. and other regional governments keep pursuing the goal of regime change at the expense of the civilian population?

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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