Military could decide final outcome in Venezuela | World News
There is almost cultish affection for the youthful leader of Venezuela’s opposition, Juan Guaido, and when he arrives at one of the small rallies to explain the latest thinking of the movement, he is mobbed.
His support appears to be growing and his profile has certainly caught the imagination of the international community.
Britain is one of the latest to join others at the United Nations in calling for presidential incumbent Nicolas Maduro to announce new elections in Venezuela in the next week or so.
If Mr Maduro fails to do so, then Mr Guaido will be recognised as the interim president and money and funding for the country will be channelled towards him.
That is all well and good, but walking through the crowds I couldn’t help wondering how on earth that can be achieved.
As it stands the military, the government institutions and the supreme court all adhere to the current administration. A sovereign nation is unlikely to hold elections because other countries tell it to. The money doesn’t have to be sent, of course, but if it is – where would it go?
Even the most hawkish American policy advisers to US President Donald Trump acknowledge it is “complicated”.
The reality is that the countries allied against Mr Maduro on this issue are also allied against Russia, Turkey, China and Iran, which support him.
The demands won’t be met. A Cold War-style stand-off has already begun.
The generals have been kept on board with a type of institutionalised corruption. But the mid-ranking officers and enlisted men see none of this cash. They are the ones the opposition are after.
So does the Guaido “cult” status at home offer a solution? Can he bring about internal changes through political activism, protests and standing by the Constitution which he and his supporters in the National Assembly believe gives them a copper-bottomed right to call him the interim president prior to new elections?
He will immediately call those elections – even if there is no electoral commission anyone actually trusts, which is of course an issue.
The rallies are impressively attended and the people genuinely eager to support change. But they are held in middle-class areas. Mr Guaido can depend on these people without question. The truth is the revolution needs to come from the working classes and the barrios (the slums) where they struggle to survive.
As it stands, he is not carrying anywhere near enough of them. The Chavez revolution improved their lives immeasurably so even if his successor has failed to deliver anything remotely as good – he is still the successor, and that counts.
I caught up with Mr Guaido, or rather I had to fight my way through a hundred cameramen to get near to him, to ask if he could only remove Mr Maduro with military force.
“We have called the people of Venezuela to back this process (of change) and we have the international community’s cooperation, but also the armed forces – they are an important part of this – and they have to come over to the side of the Constitution,” he told me.
In essence then, he needs the military on board.
It does not mean that they have to drive a tank at the presidential palace though and that is what behind-the-scenes workers within the opposition movement are doing.
A new amnesty law is being drawn up and its details are being circulated on social media and handed out on flyers to the crowds coming to see Mr Guaido. People are being asked to persuade family and friends in the security forces to come over.
Basically the message tells the military and the police that if they change sides they will be immune from prosecution for politically-motivated crimes.
A significant number are guilty of assault charges for certain, and those won’t be ignored. But in essence the opposition is saying to the military: time is up for Mr Maduro and the generals who support him because of the financial benefits they have enjoyed under his time in office – but not for you.
The generals have been kept on board with a type of institutionalised corruption; they run customs and border trade, for example. But the mid-ranking officers and enlisted men see none of this cash. They are the ones the opposition are after and they believe they can see cracks opening in the system.
Lilian Tintori is political royalty in Venezuela. She is the wife of the charismatic opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, currently under house arrest. They are an uber glam couple who would probably become the first family in free elections.
She is pushing hard to get the amnesty message out there.
I joined her at a rally where she was constantly stopped by well-wishers and people wanting a selfie.
“Even the army who tortured my husband in prison know that Maduro and his people are wrong. They TOLD him,” she said.
“Today we are talking about amnesty, amnesty to the military, amnesty for the police, amnesty because they need to understand that we want to leave this transition in peace. We don’t have arms, we don’t believe in violence, we want a transition in peace, and that’s why we are presenting this amnesty for all people in Venezuela.”
If they can convince the security forces to swap sides they may stand a chance.
In his own way Mr Guaido is already set on a path of direct outspoken action against Mr Maduro. His rallies defy the government and its security forces and it is remarkable they are still being allowed to happen.
The people see this and detect a government in crisis. It may be true. But the military will probably decide the final outcome.