'There was already a lot of indication he didn’t have the support of the military he’d been counting on.'
UNITED NATIONS – Flanked by several dozen soldiers at an air base in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared that a revolution dubbed “Operation Liberty” had begun to remove President Nicolás Maduro from power.
Guaidó didn’t use the word ‘coup,’ but as scattered fighting broke out near the airbase and across Caracas in the coming hours, it sure felt like a coup – or at least a coup attempt.
By midday, Guaidó’s bid to convince the Venezuelan army to abandon Maduro appeared to have been mostly ignored. It’s just the latest instance this year of Guaidó failing to translate broad political support into enough military defections to end to the Maduro regime.
Benjamin Friedman is the policy director at the group Defense Priorities, which advocates a more restrained use of American power overseas.
“At the moment it seems like kind of a desperate thing to do, given that there was already a lot of indication that he didn’t have the support of the military that he’d been counting on, so it was unclear what triggered this move today.”
Guaidó’s desperation may have stemmed from what one prominent Venezuelan journalist said was the opposition leader’s impending arrest, which pushed Guaidó to implement a coup plan still in its infancy.
Regardless, Friedman said Tuesday’s failed coup is a setback for the Trump Administration, which spent spent months bolstering Guaidó’s anti-Maduro crusade. But he’s not sure that means a change in U.S. policy is imminent.
“I think maybe done the road there’s going to be a reevaluation in months – of maybe some acceptance that we have to accommodate ourselves to Maduro’s survival – but given the moves to suspend oil sales and the rhetoric that’s come from [National Security Advisor John Bolton[ and others, it seems like they’re dug in enough to the anti-Maduro effort that they will continue it even without an obvious alternative.”