by Steve Ellner
The spin that the Venezuela opposition and Trump administration have put on the events of April 30 are designed to save face. Opposition leaders deny April 30 constituted a coup attempt and instead claim it was part of an ongoing process that achieved at least one objective: liberating Leopoldo López from house arrest. By alleging that Maduro was about to flee the country and that his Defense Minister Padrino López had virtually defected, the Trump administration appeared to be attempting to demonstrate that, far from being a half-baked scheme, the April 30 action almost succeeded. However, regime change efforts of this type, like the 4-month protests of 2014 and 2017, create great expectations among the anti-Maduro rank and file which then turn into a sense of resignation, while the opposition parties end up losing their mobilization capacity. Juan Guaidó’s call for the overthrow of Maduro on April 30 was the third of its kind in just over 3 months (the others having occurred on January 23 and February 23); in each case people were led to believe that Maduro was on the verge of being ousted. The end result is a loss of credibility. Shortly after April 30, Carlos Raúl Hernández – a veteran political analyst and activist associated with Acción Democrática – voiced the belief of many in the opposition when he told Le Figaro that Juan Guaidٕó may be charismatic but lacks political ability.
Guaidó’s failures may strengthen the hands of opposition parties that have been ambivalent about his schemes and are more open to negotiations with the government. While the demand for new elections represents a major hurdle in any negotiation process, proposals to overcome the pressing problems of hyperinflation, corruption and insecurity are not necessarily specific to any particular ideology. Surveys indicate that these problems, and not regime change, are foremost on the minds of most Venezuelans.
Steve Ellner is an Associate Managing Editor of Latin American Perspectives, retired professor from the Universidad de Oriente (Venezuela), and editor of Latin America’s Pink Tide: Breakthroughs and Shortcomings (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).