Uprising shows instability of Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela

On Monday, members of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) launched an apparent uprising. Things were seemingly back to normal by afternoon. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said the “criminals” had been arrested and would feel the full force of the law.

The failed revolt once again illustrates the political instability and humanitarian crises that plague Venezuela. Internationally and at home, the very legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro, who has been sworn in for a second term, is being questioned.

“There have been similar revolts in the past,” said Victor Mijares, a Venezuelan native and professor of political science at the University of Los Andes in the capital of Colombia, Bogota. “There will be more in the future,” he said.

Venezuela’s opposition has called for nationwide protests on Wednesday.

Mijares said Venezuelan soldiers had put up with working conditions that breed discontent. Low- and midlevel personnel are particularly disgruntled, he said. “These people have the same worries that most ordinary citizens have. So this is a revolt by impoverished citizens, albeit with guns and uniforms.”

The question is whether Venezuela’s disaffected citizens and military personnel will manage to destabilize the regime. And whether that would actually pave the way toward a democratic transition.

Bolsonaro floats ‘solution’

What role might Venezuela’s neighbors play in efforts to destabilize the government? Would they support a revolt against a regime that they regard as illegitimate?

Leonardo Bandarra, a research fellow at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), said regional right-wing leaders such as Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his Brazilian counterpart, Jair Bolsonaro, would likely take the temperature of domestic politics in their respective countries before deciding on how to respond to such an uprising. This is especially the case for Bolsonaro, who warned during his election campaign that Brazil could turn into a second Venezuela.

Macri has deemed President Maduro a “dictator,” and Bolsonaro has encouraged Venezuelans to practice “resistance” and remain “confident” that a “solution will soon present itself.”

TheVenezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who serves as the head of the National Assembly, could assume a pivotal role in a revolt, Bandarra said. Should he insist on assuming the role of president, he could count on the backing of regional powers Argentina and Brazil. “They could launch an intervention if a government led by Guaido calls for this,” he said. But he is skeptical as to whether public opinion in Argentina and Brazil would be in favor of such an undertaking.

What about Trump?

Kai Michael Kenkel, a professor for international relations at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, said the real question was what US officials would choose to do should Maduro’s government be destabilized. “It all depends on whether the United States will be willing to carry out a military intervention. I do not think Brazil has the military means to make in incursion into Venezuela, and it is not considering this either,” Kenkel said. 

Mijares, the Venezuelan political scientist, said US officials had already considered intervening in some ways. “Not a typical military intervention from the outside, like for example in Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said. “Instead, this is about creating the conditions so that the Venezuelan army can intervene in the political sphere and bring down the regime from within.”

Venezuela has been a failed state for a while now, Mijares said. “Apparently Washington and regional neighbors would recognize a military-led interim government if it paves the way towards a democratic system in Venezuela,” he added. But Maduro has proved resilient, and nobody knows exactly how much more political turmoil it will take to remove him from office, Mijares said.

  • Protests in Venezuela

    Venezuela on the brink

    The last straw

    Violent protests erupted across the country following a Supreme Court decision in late March 2017 to strip the legislative branch of its powers. Amid an international outcry, President Nicolas Maduro reversed the decision, but it was too late. Thousands took to the streets to call for new elections and dozens died in clashes with security forces.

  • Empty shelves at grocery store

    Venezuela on the brink

    Starvation a growing problem

    Venezuelans spend more than 30 hours a week waiting in lines to shop, and are often confronted with empty shelves when they finally enter a store. President Maduro blames the crisis on US price speculation. The opposition, however, accuses the Socialist government of economic mismanagement.

  • Colombians gathering medical supplies

    Venezuela on the brink

    Health care crisis ‘reminiscent of war zones’

    In Colombia, Venezuelans are collecting medical supplies to send home, as seen in this picture. Hospitals around the country have compared conditions to those seen only in war zones. As patient deaths rise, health officials have sounded the alarm on the rise of malaria and dengue fever.

  • Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Miraflores)

    Venezuela on the brink

    Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly seizes power from opposition-led congress

    Venezuela’s pro-government constituent Constituent Assembly was established in July of 2017. The new body adopted the authority to pass legislation on a range of issues, effectively taking away the powers of congress, which was under the opposition’s control. The move drew wide international condemnation.

  • Angela Merkel meets Venezuelan opposition lawmakers in Berlin (picture-alliance/dpa/AFP/T. Schwarz)

    Venezuela on the brink

    Western powers slap sanctions Venezuela’s ruling officials

    In response to the ongoing political crisis, the United States and European Union imposed a series of sanctions against ruling officials. The US has blacklisted members of the Constituent Assembly and frozen all of Maduro’s assets that are subject to US jurisdiction. The EU, meanwhile, has banned arms sales to the country and is lining up to freeze assets and impose travel restrictions.

  • Venezuela helds two votes: regional elections and elections for governors, which were overdue since 2016. (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Cubillos)

    Venezuela on the brink

    Government victorious in regional elections

    In October 2017, Venezuela held two votes: regional elections and elections for governors, which were overdue since 2016. The opposition boycotted the vote, but then split, as some candidates and small parties chose to participate. This caused a deep rift within Maduro’s opponents. The government went on to sweep the contest, which detractors say was unfair and heavily favored the regime.

  • Venezuela Opposition Protest 100 Bolivar Geldschein (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Cubillos)

    Venezuela on the brink

    Debt default looms

    Last November the oil-rich, cash-poor nation faced its day of reckoning, as officials met with creditors to hammer out a deal to keep the country from defaulting on its debt — estimated to be up to $150 billion (€127 billion). US and EU sanctions, however, have limited the chance of an agreement. Creditors will almost certainly go after the country’s oil reserves.

  • Oscar Perez, Maduro's enemy number one, was found and killed by police in the Caracas neighborhood of El Junquito. (Getty Images/AFP/I. Zugasti)

    Venezuela on the brink

    The ‘massacre of El Junquito’

    In January, Oscar Perez, Maduro’s enemy number one, was found by police in the Caracas neighborhood of El Junquito. The ex-cop had been on the run since he launched grenades at government buildings in the wake of the 2017 protests. The government labeled him a “terrorist.” Perez and six other rebels were killed in the ambush, which the opposition denounced as an “extrajudicial killing.”

  • Presidential elections scheduled for May 20 (Getty Images/AFP/F. Parra)

    Venezuela on the brink

    Presidential elections scheduled

    The new National Assembly announced in January that it would grant Maduro’s call for snap presidential elections on April 22. The electoral authority, CNE, later moved the date to May 20. The EU, the US and 14 Latin American nations warned that they would not recognize the results. The mainstream MUD opposition alliance boycotted the vote.

  • Venezuela Wahlen (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Cubillos)

    Venezuela on the brink

    Maduro wins

    Maduro was re-elected to a second six-year term on May 20 with about 68 percent of the vote. Turnout was only 46 percent, according to the election body. However, the MUD opposition alliance, which boycotted the vote, put turn out at less than 30 percent. The Organization of American States called the elections neither free nor fair.

    Author: Kathleen Schuster

At 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of news and features. You can sign up to receive it here.

Article source: