Venezuela On The Brink?

Venezuela On The Brink?

Since taking power following the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, Nicolas Maduro has adopted many tactics to remain in charge. He's introduced gimmicks to try to stave off economic collapse, blamed product shortages and growing opposition on foreigners, borrowed billions from China and Russia, ordered crackdowns on protests, arrested critics, expelled foreign journalists, stacked courts with cronies, stripped opposition-controlled legislatures of power, and rigged elections while firmly denying the crisis-plagued country is in crisis.


There's a new confrontation brewing. On Wednesday, huge numbers of protesters flooded the streets of Caracas and other major cities to demand Maduro's ouster, and the newly appointed leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaido declared himself interim president. The United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru quickly recognized Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate president. Mexico, Russia, China, Cuba, Bolivia, Iran, and Turkey are sticking with Maduro.

Is Venezuela on the verge of major change? There's no credible sign of that yet. Maduro will only be forced from power when senior military commanders decide that keeping him in place is more dangerous than ousting him. A direct appeal from Guaido to the military makes clear he understands that, but the strong response from security forces to this week's protests and their pledge to back Madurosuggest that moment isn't imminent.

But that's a choice that a few senior military men will make in secret. If they decide it's time to abandon Maduro, a status quo that has dragged on for years could be reversed in a matter of hours.

Public exhaustion with endless economic hardship, the scale of latest protests, and broad international support for a new government give the opposition and its new leader real momentum. They will certainly try to use it.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

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Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

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