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Despite a deepening humanitarian crisis, a recent nationwide blackout, ongoing opposition protests, and tight international sanctions, Venezuela's strongman President Nicolás Maduro remains, however improbably, in power. The army brass has so far stuck with him, and he continues to count on the external support of China, Turkey, and Russia. Over the weekend, Russia reportedly sent nearly 100 troops to Venezuela.

Now it appears that after several weeks of more or less ignoring opposition leader Juan Guaidó – whose claim to the presidency is supported by more than 50 countries – Maduro is going on the offensive.

Last Friday, Maduro's security services arrested Guaidó's chief of staff, eliciting a barrage of international condemnation, but little substantive response from the US, Canada, and other countries that back the opposition.

After all what can they do? Severe sanctions against the ruling clique are already in place. A military response is still "on the table," but hardly seems like a realistic option right now. And that may have been Maduro's point: to undermine Guaidó by calling his supporters' bluff.

Still, while Maduro is clinging to power, it's not clear what his real game plan is. He seems to have little inclination or capacity to address the catastrophic humanitarian crisis that his policies have inflicted on Venezuela. Refugees continue to flee.

Assuming Maduro thinks he can hang on, what's the next move?

The clear signal: Neither side has great options right now, but a stalemate at this point probably helps Maduro more than Guaidó.


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