Is Nicolás Maduro about to arrest the head of Venezuela’s opposition?

Is Nicolás Maduro about to arrest the head of Venezuela’s opposition?

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaidó addresses the legislative body on April 2, 2019. Courtesy: Juan Guaidó
Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaidó addresses the legislative body on Tuesday. (Courtesy: Juan Guaidó)

Juan Guaidó had his parliamentary immunity stripped away by Maduro's allies this week, a move that could herald his impending arrest.

UNITED NATIONS — Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó suffered an ominous set back this week as lawmakers loyal to President Nicolás Maduro stripped him of parliamentary immunity in a move that could signal Guaidó’s impending arrest.

Guaidó has enjoyed surprising freedom since declaring himself interim president in January, holding numerous rallies against Maduro and even defying a court order barring him from leaving the country.

Erika de la Garza, a senior adviser for the Latin American Initiative at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, says Guaidó’s civility — not to mention his support from more than 50 governments — lent him surprising political cover.

“Something that’s completely new within the opposition is Guaidó’s tone. He’s calling for democratic and peaceful change, and you really can’t get more civil than that in the current political context of Venezuela.”

But Guaidó’s fortunes started to worsen last month when his chief of staff was arrested on terrorism charges, a sign Maduro is less worried about the blowback caused by crushing his political foe.

Evan Ellis is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Clearly the change which has occurred in the past several days is related to Russia providing 100 military forces, which in and of itself doesn’t affect any balance of power to speak, but as with Russian forces in Syria would seem to indicate that the Russians are providing a symbolic assurance that ‘we are with you.’ ”

Russia’s military deployment certainly lowers the odds the U.S. would intervene to protect Guaidó’s as it has threatened before, but Ellis says Russia often has ulterior motives and could also benefit if Guaidó’s arrest triggers a surprising strong backlash.

“At the end of the day, even though Maduro is thrown under the bus, the Russians essentially still win, because the Russians have an interest in sustained chaos and a mess that would drag in the United States in as long and as expensive a war as possible.”

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