Earlier this week we learned that a group of Central and South American nations (plus Canada) had labeled the regime of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro illegitimate and called for him to step aside. At that time, I wondered when more nations would join in this effort, as well as the Organization of American States. As it happens, only a few days later the dominos began to fall a bit faster. The OAS and the United States both called on Maduro to be removed from office. The general consensus seems to be that Maduro should be replaced by opposition party and National Congress leader Juan Guaido. (Associated Press)
The United States ramped up its criticism of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro on Saturday with an explicit call for the formation of a new government in the country.
The State Department said in a statement that it stood behind the head of Venezuela’s opposition-run congress, Juan Guaido, who said on Friday he is prepared to step into the nation’s presidency temporarily to replace Maduro.
The statement was the latest in a barrage of Trump administration attacks on Maduro, whose inauguration to a new term as president on Thursday has been widely denounced as illegitimate.
As I mentioned above, it wasn’t just the United States doing this. On the same day, a spokesman for the Organization of American States tweeted out a statement recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.
That may sound disorderly, but I learned an interesting fact about Venezuelan government over the course of researching this story. It turns out that the Venezuelan constitution provides for assigning the presidency to the head of the National Assembly (Guaido in this case) if the current president is determined to be illegitimate, so there’s clearly some legal ground for replacing Maduro.
Unfortunately for the opposition, it took barely 48 hours from the time Guaido said he was ready to take charge until Maduro had him arrested. (BBC)
The head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled parliament, Juan Guaidó, has been detained by intelligent agents.
His wife, Fabiana Rosales, said on Twitter Mr Guaidó’s whereabouts were unknown.
A video posted on social media appears to show agents removing him from a car in the middle of a busy road.
Here’s the video of what happens to you in Venezuela if you attempt to defy the tyrant.
— Antonio Ledezma (@alcaldeledezma) January 13, 2019
Getting back to the unlikely transfer of power, all of this is still lip service unless there is some concrete action to push the dictator off his throne. Assuming someone can get him out of Maduro’s dungeons, Guaido can claim the right to ascend to power, but he admits that the feat can’t be accomplished without the support of a majority of citizens taking to the streets as well as the military to enforce the decree. Thus far, countless protests by Venezuelan citizens have failed to dislodge Maduro and resulted only in his militias beating them down, throwing them in prison or simply murdering them in the streets.
Further, while there have been a few defectors and some talk of a coup by smaller units, the military has thus far stayed solidly behind Maduro and upheld his decrees. Add to that the fact that the dictator now has the open support, financial and militarily, of both Russia and China. As long as they keep enough cash in the tyrant’s coffers to keep paying the soldiers, the military is unlikely to abandon him.
The stage is set for a revolution and the removal of the socialist dictator, but only if the people of Venezuela are willing to start down that road. And if they do, it will be a bloody, tragic battle. Still, we should give credit to the nations who are choosing to recognize the National Assembly and Guaido while calling out Maduro’s recent inauguration for the sham that it is. Now we just need to hope that Guaido hasn’t already become a martyr for the cause.