snapshots

Apr 30, 2019 | 14:41 GMT

4 mins read

Venezuela: A Guaido-Led Military Uprising Appears Underway

(Stratfor)
The Big Picture

The Venezuelan opposition's push for regime change seemed to be stalling — until now. It appears that a military uprising against the government of President Nicolas Maduro is underway. No matter how it turns out, the uprising will be consequential. If successful, it will usher in a more business-friendly opposition government. If it fails, the Maduro government will crack down heavily on its opponents and call upon external backers such as Russia to protect itself from future coup attempts.

What Happened

A military uprising appears to be underway against the Venezuelan government. Forces loyal to opposition leader Juan Guaido reportedly arrested the head of the Venezuelan Military Industry Company in Maracay, in the state of Aragua. Earlier, a video posted on social media showed Guaido and political ally Leopoldo Lopez flanked by members of the Venezuelan National Guard, whose ranks have been thinned recently by frequent defections. In the video, Guaido called on the Venezuelan public to take to the streets to protest against President Nicolas Maduro, saying that the "final phase" of the movement to oust the president was beginning. Separately, media reports claimed military forces freed Lopez from house arrest, where he has been held since 2017. 

A map showing flashpoints between Nicolas Maduro's government and Venezuela's opposition in Caracas.

Guaido earlier claimed to be at La Carlota, an air force base located in central Caracas. A separate report claimed that there were around 70 troops present. Security forces loyal to the state have already begun trying to disperse the soldiers and some pro-opposition protesters near the air base. Additional National Guard units appear to be mobilizing toward the district of Chacao in the capital, but it's unclear which of these are joining the dissidents or the loyalists. Some units reportedly loyal to Maduro have already been intercepted and arrested by those supporting Guaido. 

Why This Matters

Guaido and Lopez's video is clearly an attempt at keeping momentum behind the opposition's push to oust Maduro from power. This is unsurprising, given that the Maduro government has slowly begun laying the groundwork for Guaido's arrest. 

Initially, Guaido and a limited number of loyalists set up a public display of defiance in close proximity to the base. Later, however, Guaido and Lopez moved from La Carlota to the large square of Plaza Francia Altamira, from which they addressed supporters from the roof of a car.

Guaido and Lopez's public display of rebellion against the government will now put the Maduro government in a more difficult position. Though the Venezuelan government has been slowly gaining confidence about halting Guaido's push for regime change, a violent confrontation with Guaido and his followers could mean the opposition's bid for power remains one of Washington's foreign policy priorities. 

Guaido and Lopez's public display of rebellion against the government will put the Maduro government in a more difficult position.

How the rest of the armed forces react to Guaido's public show of defiance will be crucial to watch. Though Guaido is seemingly acting with limited military support, he may actually have enough commanders and units on his side to mount an armed challenge to Maduro's government. The loyalty of the armored forces in Maracay, as well as mechanized infantry at Fort Tiuna in Caracas, will be crucial for Maduro. 

It will also be important to see whether dissident forces try to seize the Jose oil export terminal in the state of Anzoategui, or any upstream infrastructure in the Orinoco Belt, to pressure Maduro from power. The actions of external actors — such as Guaido's allies or the Russian government — will also have a bearing on Maduro's bid to stay in power. If the uprising fails, Russia will likely try to send reinforcements to bolster Maduro and complicate future coup attempts. 

Background

Venezuela's political opposition began its push to remove Maduro from power in January. Guaido is partially recognized as the interim president of Venezuela by the United States, as well as most of Latin America and Europe. 

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