In Venezuela, Maduro may be losing the military

It’s still a bit early to be getting our hopes up for the people of Venezuela, but even someone as skeptical as myself might be daring to hope that the oppressed people of that nation may finally break free of the grip of their dictator, Nicolas Maduro. The one significant development that may justify such optimism is that some additional senior military personnel have made the decision to abandon the tyrant and declare their support for Juan Guaido as interim president of the country. As the Telegraph reported this weekend, an Air Force general announced that he was no longer supporting the dictator and riot police were seen standing down and refusing to repress crowds of protesters.

In the northwestern city of Barquisimeto video on social media appeared to show riot police refusing to repress protesters, and walking away from the demonstrations.

One officer hugged a protester.

The demonstrations came as a general from the Venezuelan air force announced he no longer recognises Mr Maduro as the country’s president, in what appears to be the highest ranking military defection to hit the regime.

That’s not to say that Maduro is toothless at this point. There have been 35 demonstrators killed and more than 800 arrested during the most recent rounds of protests. Still, the WaPo has been covering protests in Caracas with demonstrators numbering in the tens of thousands. Maduro only has so many police and brute squads at his disposal, even if they all remain loyal.

It’s still very unlikely that Maduro will voluntarily step down and turn over control of the country if he believes he has the muscle to maintain his grip. The only thing that would likely change that would be a complete abandonment by the military, effectively resulting in a coup. While many soldiers appear to be unhappy, most of the military leadership still seems to be backing the dictator for now.

Perhaps the worst-case scenario would be part of the military switching allegiance to Guaido while the rest remain loyal to Maduro. That could lead to a bloody civil war that would leave the citizens in even worse shape than they are now. And we shouldn’t forget that Maduro still has the support of Russia, China, Turkey and Cuba. What’s unclear is how far those nations would be willing to go to keep him in power and if that would involve the use of foreign troops against Maduro’s opponents. That’s when things could get seriously complicated.