Bolton tells Venezuela's dictator Maduro to cut the clown show and get out

National security adviser John Bolton has never suffered fools gladly, so just now, from Abu Dhabi, he's let Venezuela's dictator, Nicolás Maduro, have it, telling him to cut the clown show in Caracas and just get out.

Here is what the Associated Press reports:

The United States stepped up its criticism of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro on Saturday with an explicit call for the formation of a new government in the South American country.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it stood behind the head of Venezuela's opposition-run congress, Juan Guaido, who said on Friday that he was prepared to step into the presidency temporarily to replace Maduro.

The statement was the latest in a series of Trump administration attacks on Maduro, whose inauguration to a new term as president on Thursday has been widely denounced as illegitimate.

Bolton's remarks are refreshing, because he's not even pretending Maduro's president these days.  He actually isn't, because, having gotten himself into office by a fraud election and then illegally swearing himself in in front of judges instead of the opposition legislature, as the law says he must, he hardly is.

First thing we see from this is a new U.S. willingness to take a logical response from the reality on the ground, and that's good.  That's also new, because for 20 years, the U.S. kept pretending.

Second, Bolton's saying what everyone in the region is thinking and, up until now, has been too afraid to say.  He knows he has these nations behind him, so what we are seeing is that America is finally taking the lead, and there may well be an avalanche of other nations to follow.

Third, what we are seeing for the first time is a plan.  They've got a dissident leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, a 35-year-old guy of unknown merits who trotted out a beauty queen-style wife (this isn't promising in times of revolution or when locals are starving, but, OK), who says he intends to battle Maduro.  That's promising enough.  He also said this:

Guaido, speaking to a crowd blocking a Caracas street a day after Maduro's inauguration, said he was willing to become interim leader.  But he said he would need support from the public, the armed forces and other countries and international groups before trying to form a transitional government to hold new elections to replace Maduro.

The man has been billed as a part of a "new generation" of opposition leaders (Venezuela's opposition has been opposing Venezuela's Chavista communist one-party rule for so long that its members are moving into generations), and he's saying he's willing to step in as interim leader, a fairly brave thing to say in a thug dictatorship that has thrown top political opposition leaders into Chavista dungeons.  It's also a bold thing to say – none of the others have done it before him.  His plan is obvious: he will move into that void once the public, the military, and foreign countries are behind him.

Bolton just set the stage for that with these remarks, and secretary of state Mike Pompeo acted as a valuable wingman.

"The Maduro regime is illegitimate and the United States will continue ... to work diligently to restore a real democracy to that country," he said.  "We are very hopeful that we can be force for good to allow the region to come together to deliver that."

 With everyone on the same page now, one can see the outlines of the stage in Venezuela being set for action.

Image credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 3.0.