“May Day” Venezuela: Guaido Tries Again As Trump Prepares To Punish Cuba
Another day, another protest in Caracas as opposition leader Juan Guaido plans another rally calling for more defections of the rank-and-file military against the ruling Socialists United Party (PSUV) of president Nicolas Maduro.
Guaido sent out a video message to supporters via Twitter on Wednesday calling for the “largest march” in Venezuela’s history.
See: There Is No “Coup” In Venezuela — Bloomberg Opinion
Today is international May Day, once a traditional European holiday to celebrate the arrival of spring. Socialist and Communist Party activist groups from the late 1890s later changed May Day as a day to celebrate labor rights. In Venezuela, where the governing party has spent much of its last decade in power absconding the national wealth and taking over private enterprises, workers rights have taken a far back seat to civil and even human rights. The country now faces its worst-ever humanitarian crisis. It is poorer than ever. An estimated three million Venezuelans have fled an economic depression, now in its third year. Meanwhile, Maduro continues to blame Washington for its economic problems despite the fact that sanctions against its main source of earnings — crude oil — only began this year. And many in the media, including the Associated Press, have referred to this week’s protest as a “U.S.-backed coup attempt.”
Today marks the second day of Guaido’s “coup attempt” to convince the military to take action against Maduro. Guaido hopes to cause more defections among the National Guard. He needs a big showing today, at least as big as yesterday, with visible support from the military.
“Today we continue,” Guaido posted on his Twitter account. “We will keep going with more strength than ever, Venezuela.”
¡Buenos días! Hoy continuamos, estos son los puntos de la concentración el día de hoy en Caracas. Seguimos con más fuerza que nunca Venezuela. #VamosConTodo https://t.co/Rcp5jAo3U5
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) May 1, 2019
Guaido quickly earned the backing of a group of Catholic Bishops in Venezuela and the Organization of American States on January 10, the swearing-in ceremony for the second, six-year term of Maduro. Maduro took over the government after the death of Hugo Chavez, PSUV founder and a revolutionary who actually orchestrated a real coup attempt as a military commander in 1992.
In January, the Bishops and OAS immediately referred to Maduro as an illegitimate president, citing Guaido as the highest ranked democratically elected official in Caracas. Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro followed suit, saying he would not recognize representatives of the PSUV in diplomatic relations with Venezuela.
It has been reported that following a call with Vice President Mike Pence, Guaido called himself interim president with Washington’s blessings. He was then recognized as Venezuela’s president by the U.S. and 49 other countries, including Brazil and Colombia, which have been housing hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants for the past year.
Maduro, meanwhile, has the support of Bolivia, Nicaragua, Russia, and Cuba.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Maduro was set to leave for Cuba yesterday, resigning from his duties, but Russian leaders convinced him to stay rather than give Washington another regime change victory.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the allegation false.
Pompeo also alleges that they have word from Guaido that at least three top-level members of Maduro’s cabinet are ready to break ranks. At the very least, this is meant to sew distrust within the Maduro Administration.
“We haven’t seen Maduro for an awfully long time. He’s hiding somewhere,” Pompeo told Trish Regan from the Fox Business Network yesterday. Maduro took to state television yesterday to talk about the “failed coup” against him. “There were a handful of people that had made clear they were coming across to the side to leave Maduro. The Defense Minister (Vladimir) Padrino; the head of the supreme court, (Maikel) Moreno; the head of the presidential guard, (Rafael) Hernandez Dala, they had all indicated that they were prepared to help. They have not made a move that’s as strong as we would hope.”
Yesterday, Trump blamed Cuba — not the Russians — for its military backing of Maduro. He suggested an all-out blockade against Cuba, mirroring the old Cold War sanctions against the country that were set to be rolled back during the Obama presidency.
Trump is scheduled to discuss Cuba on Regan’s show Primetime on Wednesday.
Cuba is seen as a vampire in Venezuelan politics. They depend on it for subsidized fuel and in return provide security and ideological support for Maduro. Cuba’s Castro-era revolution is PSUV’s guiding light.
Chavez died of cancer while being treated in Havana.
“What we’ve done is we’ve raised the cost for Cuba. We began that several weeks back,” Pompeo told Regan. “We’ve put on increased pressure on Cuba…there’s more to follow.”
U.S. military intervention like the takedown of Manuel Noriega of Panama in the 1980s is still on the table.
As Guaido pushes the envelope, threatening his own arrest, the National Assembly president of Venezuela could put himself in a situation of becoming a martyr to the anti-PSUV cause. Such an outcome would likely be the catalyst for change in Venezuela. Most polls on Maduro, which are few, put support for him and the PSUV at less than 30%.