Here are the steps of the coup d’état, from the appearance of the unknown Guaidó to the public irruption of the regime of Trump and his friends in the region.
Caracas, Jan. 24 — Juan Guaidó (photo) declared himself interim president of Venezuela [on Jan. 23]. He did it from a platform speaking to his social base, mobilized in Caracas. In this way he assured that he would hold the strings of a transitional government that until Jan. 5 was unknown. He assumed the presidency of the National Assembly by the coincidence of party rotation.
Donald Trump, president of the United States, announced shortly afterwards that he recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president. Next came the usual suspects: Presidents Iván Duque of Colombia and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil.
The programmed sequence was thus completed, reaching the point of no return. From now on, the conflict has entered a new dangerous stage: The plan announced by the right wing, led from the exterior, can only be realized by deepening the violence.
The announcement was expected. In fact, the day before, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had recorded a video calling for the mobilization on Jan. 23 and blessing Guaidó. Marco Rubio, Republican senator in a crusade against Cuba and Venezuela, had for his part sent a tweet with threats to Nicolás Maduro: “Don’t start a fight with someone who has shown that he will take actions beyond what anyone thought possible.”
This is how the coup d’état was declared. The question is: how are they going to carry it out? Will they remove Nicolás Maduro by force? It is one thing to announce and another to gather sufficient forces.
Within this framework, the focus is on some central variables. First, how will the external front evolve? The National Assembly has already presented itself to the Organization of American States as the representative of the “new government,” and the U.S. is expected to announce new measures to translate Guaidó’s recognition into concrete actions.
Secondly, the streets of Venezuela. This Jan. 23, the right wing showed it had recovered its capacity for mobilization, something it had not done since August 2017. This is the public part of street actions, which are broadcast internationally. Along with them, there are violent actions carried out from the evenings until the early morning, as happened on Monday, Tuesday, and this Wednesday (Jan. 23).
This last aspect is central: The acts are presented in the corporate media as spontaneous, but they are really organized actions, activated by armed groups — paid crooks — that try to set fires and carry out a siege, trying to lure residents from popular areas to generate a feeling that chavismo is isolated and right-wing power is growing. These acts will increase, with the probable activation of paramilitary forces to levels higher than those of 2017 — when they even assaulted military barracks. There will be more deaths; it is part of the coup plan.
Challenges for chavismo
Chavismo is faced with the challenge of how to confront this national and international assault, which seeks to break up the Bolivarian National Armed Force (Fanb), promote zones of conflict on the border to provide a pretext for the use of force — the Colombia factor is central — collapse the economy, and push the population into civil confrontations.
The first step was to mobilize on Jan. 23 to demonstrate that Chavismo has not lost its street capacity. In that same moment it demonstrated the unity that has been maintained, which is key in these circumstances. “We do not accept a president imposed in the shadow of obscure interests or self-proclaimed outside the law. La Fanb defends our Constitution and is the guarantor of national sovereignty,” wrote Vladimir Padrino López, Minister of Defense.
As for the diplomatic responses, the one that could have been foreseen has happened: the Bolivarian government broke off relations with the United States, and Russia once again declared its recognition of Nicolás Maduro as president. The Venezuelan conflict is geopolitical.
Along with that, there is the need not to fall into the provocations of the right, which, unlike in 2017, began to bring the conflict to the popular neighborhoods at the beginning of the escalation. A display of violence is expected that will touch different points of the territory: an armed siege of towns and neighborhoods, presented as peaceful, worked through the great power of rumors through social networks.
The ‘National Assembly’
As for the National Assembly (A.N.), there is the question of what to do. The Supreme Court of Justice has declared A.N. illegal, but how should the Maduro government act when the A.N. declares war? To dissolve it and call for new elections would surely be to extinguish a fire with gasoline, but is letting the A.N. act and advance in its coup d’état plan an option? The answers are complex, contemplating multiple factors at once, a dangerous edge.
Venezuela has entered a phase that seems to have no point of return. The plan announced by Guaidó, directed from the United States, can only be carried out through violence. The [coup planners] look for the ways and the actors. As far as the timeframe is concerned, the right does not seem to be in a position to maintain a conflict of this nature for a prolonged period of time at the national level. The year 2017 has shown that prolonged violence can lose legitimacy and isolate coup d’étatism.
All sorts of events can develop from this moment on, from the smallest, like a fire, to a high-impact event that serves as a catalyst, at any given moment. This is the third violent assault [by the right] in five years and they think they can impose themselves. This [coup attempt] has major international weight, with the wear and tear produced by the economic situation also in their favor.
Against them is chavismo, a movement that has been underestimated time and time again, which has demonstrated intelligence and democratic maneuverability in scenarios that seemed lost.