Venezuela overcomes power outage, awaiting the next attack

By Marco Teruggi
March 21, 2019

This article by Teruggi, an Argentine journalist living in Caracas, first appeared in on March 18. Translation by International Action Center Co-Director John Catalinotto.

Venezuela seems to be at the point of zero-sum in the confrontation between the self-appointed “leader” Juan Guaidó and President Nicolás Maduro’s government. No event has been strong enough to change the relationship of forces to even reach the minimal goal that Guaidó’s strategy seeks: to put Maduro on the ropes to force him into a negotiation under adverse conditions.

Guaidó’s maximum goal is to achieve what he called the “cessation of usurpation” with Maduro’s premature departure from Miraflores Palace.  That seems even more distant — unlikely at this moment.

Within this framework there are mass mobilizations, political narratives, diplomatic scenarios and covert operations. Regarding the mobilizations, Caracas was once again the scene of a pro-Chávez demonstration on Saturday, March 16.  At it, there was a reaffirmation of the Chavistas’ capacity to call out the masses.

The opposition, with Guaidó at the head, held an event in the city of Valencia, and yesterday, March 17, an event in Vargas. Guaidó’s said his departure from Caracas was due to the beginning of “Operation Liberty.”

Guaidó said in Valencia that his goals are: “One, to organize ourselves and mount commands for freedom for the cessation of usurpation. Two, locate public and military employees and speak to them politely because we are at the definitive moment of change, and three, go to Miraflores to claim and demand freedom for Venezuela.” He used the often repeated formulation, “all the cards are on the table,” referring to the pledge to call for U.S. military intervention.  No date is set yet.

Guaidó’s finalized national tour has not yet been announced. The photographs show that his ability to call out crowds is declining and doesn’t reach beyond usual opposition circles. There are enough people for a  photograph, but it’s a small grouping compared to his objectives.

Time passes, Guaidó rots

While nothing is definitive, it would carry little risk to point out one of the problems facing Guaidó: He has difficulty bringing the real balance of power close to the level of expectation that his discourse created in the opposition’s social base. Time passes,yet  the presidential chair seems no closer and the immediacy of his discourse wears thin.

Elliot Abrams, U.S. government representative for Venezuela, is the one who raised the issue of time. Among other things, Abrams is known for having led the mercenary war in Nicaragua in the 1980s. He said, “We don’t expect that this situation will be resolved immediately. In addition, our sanctions, which are beginning to bite, are not fully underway.”

That way of setting the stage distanced itself from the statements of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others who spoke of Maduro’s final days and hours. Pompeo, who had earlier been Donald Trump’s CIA director, said his government is “determined” to bring “humanitarian aid” to Venezuela. It was known that the gathering point for the “aid” would be the island of Curaçao, a Dutch colonial enclave in the Caribbean, located 295 kilometers from Caracas, and 139 from Punto Fijo, where one of the national oil company PDVSA’s main refineries is located.

U.S.-Russia meeting in Rome

It is not yet known how and when the possible new attempt to force the entry of humanitarian aid would take place. It will depend on several factors, including diplomatic factors — a constantly moving agenda that has as its next central date March 19, when Abrams and the vice minister of foreign affairs of Russia, Sergei Ryabkov, meet in Rome.

Ryabkov said, “We will insistently raise with the American side all our positions, including the inadmissibility of military intervention and, in general, of illegal outside interference and pressure against the legitimate [Maduro] government.” The Russian government also publicly claimed a few days ago that the power outage in Venezuela originated abroad.

The U.S. public stance on possible scenarios has not changed. Abrams reaffirmed that there is no possibility that Maduro will preside over a transitional government or stand for election. Abrams also referred to the possibility that the government of Spain would allow top leaders of the [Bolivarian] Revolution to go to that country as a possible escape route.

There is still no response by the opposition particularly due to the diplomatic errors of the Pedro Sánchez government in Madrid, recognized by his foreign minister, and because the internal dynamics in Spain seem to be marked by the April 28 elections.

Further actions possible against Maduro

Within this constantly moving picture, it is still possible to anticipate various  new actions. In addition to a possible new attempt to enter Venezuela by force under the pretext of providing humanitarian aid, military actions also seem to be in preparation. One of them could have a scenario of attacks directed by paramilitary/mercenary bodies.  Another could be undertaken by pulling together international participation for an attack.

Roy Chaderton, the Venezuelan diplomat, pointed out the latter scenario when he affirmed that “the Colombian oligarchy” is willing to undertake military maneuvers against Venezuela.

While the Venezuelan people are awaiting and anticipating the next steps, daily life in the country has recovered the features which existed prior to the deliberately caused electrical outage.  The Venezuelan political dynamic is marked by the moments when the opposition attempted to crack the government, as on Jan. 23, Feb. 23 or during the March 7-14 power outage. Each moment was followed by a relative calm — but always a tense calm. We are in that moment of calmness now.

Through analysis and the logic of the dynamics, it is evident that there will be a new moment with a new attempt to crack the government — in order to change the zero-sum equation. Up until now, the coup strategy has not managed to bring about the scenario that its strategists had foreseen.