Venezuela's Saturday Showdown

On Saturday, emergency supplies of food and medicine are expected to arrive in Venezuela by land and sea. Venezuela's military, still loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, vows to stop the aid from entering. In a time of national crisis, the credibility of both the government and the opposition is now squarely on the line.


Venezuela's opposition says the relief supplies will provide desperately needed help for the country's suffering people. Maduro, his supporters, and military backers insist the aid deliveries represent a foreign invasion designed to force regime change. The rhetoric has gotten hot, and Washington is directly involved: Donald Trump, who supports Venezuela's opposition, says Maduro's military men risk "losing everything" if they stop the aid delivery, and Maduro threatens "another Vietnam" if the US tries to oust him by force. Delcy Rodriguez, Maduro's vice president, says the food and medicine are poisonous and can cause cancer.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido—recognized as Venezuela's legitimate president by the US, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Japan, and many European countries—says the opposition will surround all of Venezuela's military bases to demand delivery of aid. He and allied lawmakers are currently embarked on an almost 500-mile trek from the capital, Caracas, to the Colombian border to welcome cargo arriving by truck.

Maduro has threatened to close that border, but blocking the flow of aid won't be that easy. He has also pledged to close the border with Brazil after that country's government promised to deliver supplies into Venezuela. On Wednesday, a boat carrying 250 tons of aid left Puerto Rico headed for Venezuela, and Maduro's government announced it had closed Venezuela's maritime borders with the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire to keep the shipment out.

The political angle: But tomorrow's showdown is about much more than aid – the supplies piled on the Colombian border can feed 5,000 Venezuelans for ten days, but the country's needs are much, much greater than that. It's also about political leverage. Who will claim credit for providing for Venezuela's people?

This is one of those events that offers political opportunities to both sides. Maduro critics say he'll block shipments of humanitarian aid because he'd rather starve his country than allow someone else to gain credit for helping its people. Maduro backers point to the American flag decals on many cargo containers as proof that Guaido is an American agent and that aid shipments are a Trojan Horse attack on Venezuela's government.

The bottom line: The future of Maduro's government continues to depend on Venezuela's military. This showdown will test its loyalties in new ways.

It was inevitable that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would make India's elections a referendum on Narendra Modi, and now that the vast majority of 600 million votes cast have been counted, it's clear he made the right call.

More Show less

Among the 23 men and women now seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to take on Donald Trump in next year's election, the frontrunner, at least for now, has spent half a century in politics. Former Vice President Joe Biden, first elected to the US Senate in 1972, is the very epitome of the American political establishment.

Yet, the dominant political trend in many democracies today is public rejection of traditional candidates and parties of the center-right and center-left in favor of new movements, voices, and messages. Consider the evidence from some recent elections:

More Show less

It's Friday, and Signal readers deserve at least one entirely upbeat news story.

José Obdulio Gaviria, a Colombian senator for the rightwing Democratic Center party, is an outspoken opponent of government attempts to make peace with the FARC rebel group after 50 years of conflict.

On his way into a meeting earlier this week, Gaviria collapsed. It was later reported that he had fainted as a result of low blood pressure probably caused by complications following recent open heart surgery.

A political rival, Senator Julian Gallo, quickly came to his rescue and revived him using resuscitation skills he learned as—irony alert—a FARC guerrilla. CPR applied by Gallo helped Gaviria regain consciousness, before another senator, who is also professional doctor, took over. Gaviria was taken to hospital and appears to have recovered.

Because some things will always be more important than politics.