As the world woke up Tuesday morning, an attempt in Venezuela at ousting the authoritarian regime of President Nicolás Maduro was underway.
The president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, whom more than 50 countries, including the United States, recognized in January as the legitimate interim president, tweeted a video of himself on a military base.
He was flanked by uniformed soldiers and his mentor, opposition leader Leopoldo López, who has been under house arrest since 2017, until yesterday. Guaidó declared that Venezuela had entered the “final phase” of the overthrow of the Maduro regime. He said the opposition was in a “process that was unstoppable,” while renewing calls for citizens to take to the streets and for the military to switch its loyalty from Maduro to him. That didn’t happen.
Venezuela’s military deployed tanks and tear gas against civilians who gathered at plazas and public spaces. Military weapons were rumored to have “disappeared” in order to arm pro-Maduro paramilitaries. Supporters of the regime surrounded the presidential palace; many of them armed.
The crisis in the once prosperous Latin American country is one that has already impacted the Western Hemisphere and other places around the world.
After all, the Monroe Doctrine argues this is in America’s backyard — no meddling by Russia or any foreign adversary.
For those unaware, the populist economic policies of the late Hugo Chávez have led Venezuela into a severe humanitarian crisis, which has only been exacerbated by the Maduro regime.
Violence and hunger are widespread; food shortages have reached new highs in recent months and basic necessities, including medicine, are hard to find.
According to the International Monetary Fund, inflation is expected to reach 10 million percent in 2019, which would be one of the worst cases of hyperinflation in modern history.
Eighty percent of Venezuelan households do not have sufficient access to food, according to humanitarian monitoring groups. Grocery stores are empty and hospitals are struggling to treat starving civilians.
More than three million people have fled the country since 2014, which has set off a regional crisis as neighboring countries struggle with how to respond.
Guaidó’s attempt at seizing power away from the country’s autocratic regime had been encouraged and emboldened by the U.S. government. It would be of little surprise if one found out the Trump administration was pulling the strings of the coup attempt. Unfortunately, the coup attempt was poorly executed and poorly planned.
Maduro’s centralization of power in the executive branch, suppressing any dissent with violence and intimidation and securing the support of the military by giving top brass control of high-profiting industries have given him almost a stranglehold on power.
Dimitris Pantoulas, a political analyst in Venezuela stated, “The opposition called for a civic-military uprising but failed on both ends. Parties didn’t manage to rally and coordinate enough protesters, nor did they convince a significant enough faction of the military to break ranks.”
Hopefully, the opposition learns its lesson and continues to fight for democracy in a time where populist and authoritarian regimes continue to spread across the globe and in America’s backyard.