Juan Guaido’s farcical coup attempt in Venezuela collapsed within hours. But the threat remains—as the crisis in the country continues and the US continues its sabre rattling against the left-wing government of Nicholas Maduro.
Guaido has become the figurehead of the right-wing opposition, who are determined to put the country’s wealthy back in power and reverse the “Bolivarian revolution” begun by former President Hugo Chavez in 1999. Guaido declared himself “interim president” in January with the backing of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, after Chavez’s successor Nicholas Maduro was sworn in for his second term as president.
Guaido was joined by a handful of soldiers outside the Carlota military base in Caracas to declare that he was taking power on 30 April. Alongside him was right-wing protest figurehead Leopoldo Lopez, who had been released from house arrest by guards. They called on Venezuelans to march on the presidential palace. Thousands did, but the crowd was quickly dispersed by the army.
Within hours Lopez had fled to the Columbian embassy to seek asylum, and top generals had all declared their continuing support for Maduro.
In the aftermath, Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton claimed that Venezuela’s Defence Minister and Supreme Court Chief Justice had been ready to join the plot, withdrawing at the last minute. Others claimed the coup attempt had been launched prematurely after fears it had been uncovered.
One senior military figure, head of intelligence General Manuel Cristopher Figuera, has been replaced amid rumours of involvement in the coup attempt. An open letter in his name warned Maduro that, “many people you trust are negotiating behind your back.”
For now, the debacle has weakened the opposition. But Venezuela’s economy remains in freefall, with declining oil revenues and skyrocketing inflation. US sanctions are also depriving ordinary people of vital medicines, food and other imports—and costing the government at least $6 billion in oil income.
Venezuela’s crisis is not a failure of socialism. The majority of the country’s economy has remained in the hands of the wealthy. But it shows the problems with relying on change from the top down using the existing state. There is widespread corruption within Maduro’s government, which has mismanaged the economy and has no solution to the crisis.
Only an effort to take control of society from below through a mass movement of workers and the poor can change the outcome.
By James Supple