Juan Guaido, Now Maduro’s Rival President?

Yorbing Staff, 26, 2019

By Caribbean News Now contributor

WASHINGTON, USA — The United States, along with Canada, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, on Wednesday recognised National Assembly President Juan Guaido after he declared himself interim president of Venezuela.

President Donald Trump called on Maduro to resign and promised to use the “full weight” of the US economic and diplomatic power to push for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.

“The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law,” Trump said in a statement.

Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, also expressed support for “the people of Venezuela who have taken to the streets today to exercise their democratic rights and reject Nicolas Maduro’s authoritarian rule.”

Maduro responded by cutting diplomatic relations with the US and gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.

“Before the people and nations of the world, and as constitutional president… I’ve decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist US government,” Maduro told a crowd of supporters at the presidential palace.

“Don’t trust the gringos,” he said. “They don’t have friends or loyalties. They only have interests, guts and the ambition to take Venezuela’s oil, gas and gold.”

The 35-year-old Guaido, previously a virtually unknown opposition lawmaker, issued his own statement, urging foreign embassies to ignore Maduro’s decree and keep their diplomats in the country.

Later on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed Guaido’s assurance that Venezuela intends to maintain diplomatic relations with all countries.

“The United States maintains diplomatic relations with Venezuela and will conduct our relations with Venezuela through the government of interim President Guaido, who has invited our mission to remain in Venezuela. The United States does not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela. Accordingly the United States does not consider former president Nicolas Maduro to have the legal authority to break diplomatic relations with the United States or to declare our diplomats persona non grata,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Engel encouraged the Trump administration to work with friends and allies in the region and take all necessary steps to protect diplomats in Caracas.

In a live address to the nation on Thursday, the head of Venezuela’s armed forces, defence minister Vladimir Padrino affirmed his support for the president, warning that the country could be thrust into a devastating civil war by what he called a US-backed “criminal plan” to unseat Maduro.

What next?

One major factor in what happens next is the presence of Russian military assets in Venezuela, including two nuclear-capable long range bombers, along with support personnel and equipment.

According to a statement from the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Maduro and agreed that the crisis was “provoked from abroad”.

Any attempt by the US to intervene militarily in Venezuela would therefore have the potential to escalate into an armed conflict with Russian forces. According to British intelligence sources, movement of Russian vessels, including submarines, has already been detected towards the Caribbean. US intelligence expects Russia to use Cuba as a staging post for this purpose.

Further, any military adventure in Venezuela is almost certain to end up in a disastrous jungle war, something that did not end well for the US the last time around, especially if operations are directed from the Oval Office by ‘I would have been a great general’ Trump.

And if the US expects any assistance to be forthcoming from NATO allies, that might be a long time coming given Trump’s continued disparaging and belittling of the alliance.

Any conflict in Venezuela also has the capacity to destabilise neighbouring Colombia where remnants of the left wing FARC guerrilla forces remain in the remote border areas and could well join up with forces sympathetic to the Maduro regime to create continuing long-term unrest in both countries.

Brazil may also face some potentially destabilising issues because the Amazonia region that borders Venezuela is not noted for its support of the government in Sao Paolo.

As for the Caribbean itself, far from being the proclaimed “zone of peace”, it could well become the next area of conflict between major global powers.

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