Venezuela: Is this the end for Maduro?
“Miracles do exist,” said Freider Gandica in Tal Cual (Venezuela). Opposition leader Juan Guaidó has ignited “the hopes of the brave people of Venezuela.” The “usurper” Nicolás Maduro rigged his own presidential re-election last year, and when he was inaugurated for a second six-year term in January,= many Venezuelans resigned themselves to yet more food and medicine shortages, hyperinflation, and crime. But the National Assembly, Venezuela’s only legitimately elected body, did not give up. In accordance with the constitution, it declared Maduro illegitimate and made the previously unknown Guaidó interim president. Social media bubbled with questions. “Where did this guy come from?” and “Is he really just 35 years old?” Joyfully, hundreds of thousands of us followed him into the streets, in a democratic outpouring that will change history. Guaidó has offered amnesty to Maduro and to members of the armed forces willing to come over to our side. But a shaken Maduro has fought back, sending soldiers and paramilitaries against protesters and killing dozens. We need the support of the military. “Brothers of the National Armed Forces: The time is now.” Join the restoration of democracy!
Maduro is managing this challenge carefully to avoid violence, said Francisco Arias Cárdenas in El Universal (Venezuela). It’s unfortunate that so many Venezuelans are appealing to “foreign interests” such as the U.S. and Brazil, which have recklessly recognized Guaidó. As President Maduro said, only dialogue will bring a solution, not “violence or foreign interventions or coup attempts or war.” Nonsense—the real foreign intervention is being conducted by Maduro’s ally Communist Cuba, said Richard Aitkenhead Castillo in El Periódico (Guatemala). Thousands of Cubans have “infiltrated the Venezuelan security apparatus” and the military, at all levels. Luis Almagro, general secretary of the Organization of American States, has called those Cubans “an occupation force that teaches how to torture and repress.” Russia is also backing Maduro, and has reportedly sent elite special forces to aid him.
Venezuela is now at a tipping point, said Víctor Lapuente in El País (Spain). The army is “waiting for signals from abroad,” and when “the perception spreads that the ruler is a tyrant,” military discipline will vanish. “The democracies of the world must send an unequivocal message: Guaidó is the president.” But with Cuba and Russia sticking by him, Maduro doesn’t yet feel the need to step down, said Sylvia Colombo in Folha de São Paulo (Brazil). Instead, to shore up his base, he’s giving out extra food to supporters. Still, his authority is wavering. The people “are no longer afraid” of Maduro’s colectivos, thuggish paramilitary groups involved in drug trafficking and prostitution. Some colectivos have even turned against him. But they’ve kept the guns that Maduro gave them, and a Wild West mentality has infected much of the country. If Guaidó does prevail, his challenge will be “how to disarm this civilian population and reintegrate it into society.” ■