snapshots

Venezuela: Reports of a New Coup Plot Suggest Trouble for Guaido

3 MINS READJun 27, 2019 | 22:28 GMT
The Big Picture

The Venezuelan opposition's push for regime change has faltered as opposition leader Juan Guaido, a Venezuelan congressional leader who is widely recognized as interim president, has so far failed to oust President Nicolas Maduro. Now, a claim of a newly thwarted planned coup casts even further doubt on Guaido's influence.

What Happened

The Venezuelan opposition's push for regime change is faltering, and a claim of a newly thwarted coup plot casts even further doubt on the influence of opposition leader Juan Guaido, a Venezuelan congressional leader who is widely recognized as interim president in President Nicolas Maduro's stead. Jorge Rodriguez, an influential political figure who belongs to Maduro's inner circle, said on state television that a group of opposition members and dissident military officers planned to free former Defense Minister Raul Baduel, whom the government has imprisoned for most of the last decade, to replace Maduro. Several military and police officials, including an air force general, were arrested in recent days. The government claimed the opposition coup attempt was intended to happen between June 23 and 24.

Why It Matters

The claim contradicts the Venezuelan opposition's known strategy for regime change, which centers on putting Guaido in office. If Rodriguez is correct, then Guaido's influence will likely wane even further as he ceases to be the opposition's uncontested successor-in-waiting to Maduro.

Up until now, the Venezuelan opposition appeared intent on replacing Maduro with Guaido given that as president of Venezuela's National Assembly, he stands next in line to succeed the presidency. According to the Venezuelan Constitution, the "abandonment" of presidential duties justifies the president's replacement, which would trigger a new election and an interim presidency led by the National Assembly president until the election. Guaido had laid out a plan for holding new elections after taking power as constitutionally mandated.

New pretenders to the presidency could move to replace officials representing Venezuela's diplomatic and commercial interests abroad.

The government's claim, if accurate, casts opposition unity in doubt. A plan to free Baduel and declare him president would indicate that dissident military officers or even members of the political opposition itself believe Guaido's momentum toward regime change is faltering. They may have been considering circumventing the planned order of succession and instead installing Baduel as interim president due to Guaido's inability to build clear support among Venezuela's military for Maduro's ouster. The opposition push to remove Maduro could fall apart as competing centers of power in the opposition jockey to determine his successor.

Impact

For bondholders, energy companies and other stakeholders in Venezuela's crisis, the potential for splits within the military and civilian opposition matter greatly. Opposition-appointed authorities loyal to Guaido are representing Venezuela's diplomatic and commercial interests abroad. These include negotiators discussing debt-restructuring plans with holders of defaulted Venezuelan government debt, as well as companies discussing future investment plans with members of the board of directors of Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela. If there was, in fact, a group of opposition members trying to install Baduel as interim president, this raises the question of whether Guaido is in a position to make promises to foreign stakeholders. After all, new pretenders to the presidency could move to replace officials representing Venezuela's diplomatic and commercial interests abroad.

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