On the peak of his popularity and with broad international support, Juan Guaidó celebrates two months of having proclaimed himself interim president of Venezuela. But this has not been enough to break the loyalty of the military to Nicolás Maduro.
Guaidó, head of the Parliament with the opposition majority, arrives at this point to a national mobilization towards the presidential palace of Miraflores, on a date to be defined, to take control of it.
In the face of this new peak of the crisis, which he baptized as “operation freedom”, he travels the country, and this Saturday lead a new concentration in Barcelona (northeast).
We will call for the maximum phase of popular pressure,”
he said on Friday. Maduro’s supporters also mobilized this Saturday in Caracas.
It has been a period of vertigo, in which Guaidó achieved the recognition of more than 50 countries headed by the United States, in addition to reactivating the protest and uniting the divided opposition leadership.
At the beginning of March he had an approval of 61%, compared to 14% for Maduro, according to the polling company Datanálisis. Mass mobilizations testify to this support, amid a worsening economic crisis, with a shortage of basic goods and a hyperinflation that the IMF projects in 10,000,000% by 2019.
A scenario like the current one (…) was unimaginable in 2018,”
internationalist Mariano de Alba told AFP, about how close some perceive a change of government.
Guaidó, a 35-year-old industrial engineer, was sworn in before a crowd after the legislature declared Maduro a “usurper,” because his second term, started on January 10th, was the result of fraudulent elections.
During these two months, Maduro clung to the military – his main support – agitating the fight against interventionism, fueled by Donald Trump’s warning that he does not rule out an armed action in Venezuela. Guaidó also said he was willing to ask Parliament to authorize a military intervention.
But the Lima Group (13 Latin American countries and Canada) and the European Union don’t support the use of force.
Although it continues to weaken, Maduro has managed to maintain a surprising cohesion in such an adverse scenario. The Armed Forces, with ample political and economic power, have reiterated “absolute loyalty”, ignoring the calls of Washington and Guaidó to turn their backs in exchange for amnesties and lifting sanctions.
The socialist leader has also asserted his alliance with Russia and China, the country’s main creditors, which have assumed their defense in forums such as the UN Security Council.
In all his interventions, Guaidó calls the military to leave Maduro, a 56-year-old bus driver.
But the break has not occurred
because there’s no credible offer that allows the military elite to have confidence that a change can occur,”
without implying its destruction, according to the president of Datanalisis, Luis Vicente León.
For this expert, the expectation that Maduro would only come out with an invasion may lead opponents to discard possible negotiations to cause the fracture, an unpopular but always necessary scenario to resolve conflicts.
Guaidó sought the military breakdown on February 23th, when he tried to get US donations in food and medical supplies inside his country through the border with Colombia. Maduro prevented him from doing so, saying that it was the excuse for a military intervention.
In this complex environment, Venezuela is headed for further economic deterioration. On April 28th, a US oil embargo will come into effect. These sales represent 75% of Venezuela’s cash flow, without access to international financing and dependent on imports.
The economic situation is going to worsen a lot and citizens will experience a substantial deterioration of their quality of life,”
warns De Alba, who also anticipates an increase in repression.
On Thursday, intelligence agents arrested Roberto Marrero, Guaidó’s chief of office, accused of planning attacks to generate chaos.
According to León, time plays against Maduro with danger of social explosion and intervention as the US presidential campaign approaches.
But time also plays against Guaidó, because
the more the country deteriorates without resolving the change of government, the sanctions will increase and patience will be exhausted,”
warns the analyst.