Guaidó’s ‘Operation Freedom’ flops as April 7 mobilizations show Chavistas stronger in a shaky stalemate

By Marco Teruggi
April 8, 2019

Published in on April 7. Translated by Michael Otto.

Caracas has been transformed into a stage for street protests for the last few months. Each Saturday is the day set for the two disputing political forces here — the Chavistas and the rightwing — to measure their strengths by photograph.

Under a blue Caribbean sky, April 6 was no exception. The day was full of questions. The main one: What would be the shape of what the opposition has called the start of “Operation Freedom”?

Among other things, the day was marked among the ranks of the rightwing by statements of U.S. envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams. He declared on April 4 that the option of a U.S. military intervention in Venezuela was “premature.”

His announcement dropped like a ton of bricks on that sector of the opposition’s social base who believe that only a U.S.-led foreign military intervention can overthrow Nicolás Maduro. The leaders who push this scenario, such as María Corina Machado, had to bear the weight of Abrams’ words and rationalize their misfortune after he put the brakes on  interventionist intentions.

Answers to questions about “Operation Freedom” came from what failed to happen. The opposition held protests in several parts of the country, a centralized mobilization in the east of Caracas (on the opposite side of the city from the Miraflores Palace). There Juan Guaidó gave a speech, accompanied by leaders of other rightwing parties; afterwards, a winding down and the end.

Guaidó stressed several points: First, the need [for the rightwing] to maintain and deepen the levels of organization in the so-called “Freedom Commands.” Second, regarding Abrams’ words, “Our allies told us that it’s premature. They didn’t say that it cannot be done, but only that it is premature, because as we have said … we have a plan to build up our strength. Are we going to wait or are we going to remain active in the streets of Venezuela?”

Guaidó then referred to the work plan for the next three days: A meeting with public sector workers is scheduled for April 8; he called for a new protest on April 10, without providing any details; and finally, he announced that a “world meeting” will be held to show support and build international alliances.

If “Operation Freedom” was to be an escalation of the forms of confrontation, it flopped. At least for now.

President Maduro speaks

The Chavistas, meanwhile, carried out a mobilization at the Miraflores Palace where President Nicolás Maduro gave a speech centered on several key themes. First, he gave an explanation of all the various forms of assault against the electrical system as part of the rightwing plan for sabotage.

Maduro called for deepening popular organization, starting with the need to build joint responses to the current difficulties and to be ready for new sabotage attacks that may be coming. “Their bet was that the people would not be able to endure this war. … I call on you to improve the capacity of both family and community to store water, in order to be prepared in case we have to face a new round of attacks against the electric and water systems … to improve the people’s organization, to be united within each community, to form peace teams in the neighborhoods, to be on the alert for groups of mercenaries and perpetrators of violence, to move forward in our capacity to resist under any circumstance.”

He ended his speech with a call for dialogue: “I call on the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador; the president of Uruguay, Dr. Tabaré Vázquez; the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales; the prime ministers and presidents of the Caribbean, of Caricom, to resume the initiative for national dialogue that started two months ago in Montevideo. Venezuela is asking for help and support for a great dialogue of understanding between Venezuelans. I reaffirm with all my heart [the intention to seek] a path of dialogue, negotiation, agreement.”

Maduro has emphasized the question of dialogue since the beginning of this phase of the attempted regime change raised by Guaidó’s self-proclamation [as “interim president” Jan. 23] and his unconditional support from the United States. The responses to that call [from the U.S. and the Venezuelan rightwing] have been negative in the public arena so far. Opposition leaders assert that Maduro’s exit is an absolute precondition for dialogue.

Chavistas stronger

Yesterday anyone could see that the new image of the shaky stalemate showed greater strength for the Chavistas. The rightwing has announced no actions that can alter the current relationship between the two sides or that could pose a scenario of greater threats in terms of a possible coup.

The rightists have made no gains on their own. All have come from U.S. power, such as the attacks on the economy, the last of which was announced April 5 with Washington’s decision to impose sanctions on two companies and 34 ships that sell Venezuelan oil to Cuba. These measures are as illegal as they have always been, but the U.S. faces no punishment for committing the crimes.

Venezuela is ending a new week of geopolitical war and day-by-day battles. The U.S. will convene another meeting of the United Nations Security Council April 10 to put the issue of Venezuela up for discussion a third time. The everyday life of millions of people will continue to be shaped by the succeeding confrontations, through the people’s own participation, direct or indirect, and to meet their own needs for goods and services, an arena where Caracas has gained greater levels of stability.