Is it finally coming down? Venezuela's Guaido makes a bold new push for military uprising
Is something finally happening in Venezuela? Is the thing that can't go on, not going on?
We've had so many false alarms it's tempting to just ignore this one. Wake us when it's over. Venezuela's democratic acting president, Juan Guaido, called for a giant rally on May Day, a bid for the Venezuelan public to come out into the streets and protest yet again. Not very original, but there isn't much else he can do, given that the Venezuelan military, the traditional avenue for power shifts in that country, hasn't significantly joined the side of the democrats. And, it's hard to top the avalanchas of protest that have flooded Venezuela in the past. How could this one be any bigger? What's more, given that none of the past demonstrations ever brought forth any change, it's hard to see how this one will. In Venezuela, it seems it's just all there is to do.
First, the march is focused on a tight goal - not the resignation of socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro, which will never happen anyway - but the encouragement to the military to defect from the socialist dictatorship and join the democrats. We haven't seen that kind of focus with such a do-able goal before. Maybe, just maybe...
Second, the Maduro dictatorship is screaming. They don't usually scream. They usually laugh and set up a paid counter-demonstration for the cameras. We are now seeing, from the Associated Press, reactions such as these:
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino on Twitter rejected what he called an attempt by a “subversive movement” to generate “panic and terror.” Meanwhile, socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello said most of Caracas was calm and called on government supporters to amass at the presidential palace to defend Maduro from what he said was a U.S.-backed coup attempt.
“We’re going to Miraflores palace to defend the revolution, to defend Nicolas and to defend the legacy of Hugo Chavez,” said Cabello in a phone call to state TV.
Third, the country has been through a lot since we last heard from Guaido. There was the massive blackout, news of more starvation, and news of Venezuela being converted into the hemisphere's foremost disease vector. Could something be changing in the hearts of the military as a result of those events? It's possible.
Fourth, in Guaido's march on the Venezuelan military base to get the military to join him, it's very signficant that he was accompanied by his political mentor, Leopoldo Lopez, who spent years in Chavista socialist dungeons without trial for leading protests, and who was recently released to house arrest under Chavista guard. But the Chavistas let him out, obviously defying their orders. Some reports say they joined the protests. This in itself suggests a disintegrating military, a broken chain of command, and from a bad quarter - the trusted troops that guard dissidents. Their presence is not going to go unnoticed by the Venezuelan military men still on the inside. They may even calcuate that Guaido is now the strong horse, so go with the winner. That in turn could trigger more defections. Maybe the trickle to the democrats from such quarters is just a few steps away from becoming a deluge.
Last, Guaido says he has the military with him. It's in this newly out Wall Street Journal story. It's true he would have an interest in making himself look more popular than he might be as a means of demoralizing his socialist opponents. But would he have said it if it weren't true at all? There must be something going on.
Let's keep our fingers crossed. Maybe this is it...