Months of insistence in Washington that the people of Venezuela stood by the US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido basically went up in smoke when his ‘Operation Liberty’ fizzled. The question now is whom to blame.
Senior US officials like National Security Advisor John Bolton and special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams expressed confidence in “regime change” in Caracas on Tuesday, named top Venezuelan officials ready to defect, and even spoke of signed documents to that effect.
Yet literally none of this happened, and by the early evening on Tuesday, the handful of Guaido’s armed supporters were seeking sanctuary in foreign embassies.
Then came the spin. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went on CNN and Fox News to claim that Maduro was getting ready to flee to Cuba, but “the Russians” talked him out of it. Bolton claimed Maduro was “hiding in a bunker” even as video evidence from Caracas showed him addressing supporters numbering in the thousands on May Day. The truth was inescapable, though: Guaido had failed.
“The opposition took a step backward with the military,” Rocio San Miguel, president of the Colombian NGO Control Ciudadano, told Bloomberg on Thursday. “Guaido appearing with [his mentor Leopoldo] Lopez at a single point in the city with a few dozen soldiers and no major firepower showed their weakness.”
So what happened? Several US media outlets have since sought to explain, citing anonymous sources allegedly privy to US government plots. These sources told Bloomberg they believe Maduro got wind of the coup on April 29, and Guaido rushed it ahead of schedule “or it would all collapse.”
Here's how a deal to oust Maduro in Venezuela unraveled https://t.co/erz6gCcoF6
— Bloomberg (@business) May 3, 2019
Lopez was released from house arrest because the head of the Venezuelan intelligence agency SEBIN, General Manuel Christopher Figuera, had defected to Guaido, the anonymous and entirely unverifiable sources claimed, adding that it was Lopez resurfacing that might have spooked other senior officials – defense minister Vladimir Padrino, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno, and military intelligence and presidential guard head General Ivan Hernandez.
According to these sources, Figuera’s wife left Venezuela on Sunday for the safety of the US, and the general left the country as well after he was sacked on Tuesday night, though his whereabouts are unknown.
A Venezuelan general wanted to bring his son to the U.S. for brain surgery. The Trump administration denied the request.
Inside the U.S. government’s missed chances to cultivate relations with top generals key to ousting President Maduro. https://t.co/vM4Cl59pZu
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 3, 2019
Meanwhile, AP published a long speculative piece about missed opportunities to turn senior Venezuelan officials, from Hernandez being denied a visa in 2017 for his 3-year-old son’s brain surgery, to Padrino reaching out to the US government in early 2016, after a troubled Venezuelan election.
Padrino in particular has been seen as “a potential white knight,” being a graduate of the School of the Americas. Apparently, very little US influence in the Venezuelan army had survived what the AP described as “thorough scrubbing”by Former President Hugo Chavez.
There’s a theory that’s gaining ground, and I think there’s some credence to it, that it was all part of a big ‘rope-a-dope’ operation, whereby the Maduro officials pretended to go along with this coup to smoke out the opposition,” Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, told RT.
“That’s one possibility, the other is that Pompeo’s lying” about Maduro’s attempted flight to Cuba, McAdams said, adding that neither reflects well on the US.
Whatever the truth, there is no escaping the fact that Washington has pushing for regime change in Caracas for months with sanctions and other forms of pressure, and openly since “recognizing” Guaido in January, to absolutely no avail. All the hot air coming from Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams and other high officials pushing the regime change narrative has had far more effect in the US than in Venezuela.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.