Venezuela: The Patchwork Peril

The high drama of Venezuela's political crisis continues to center on the rival claims to power of National Assembly President Juan Guaido and President Nicolas Maduro.

But while resolving the current standoff over who controls the national government is critical, finding any prosperous and stable path forward for Venezuela will also require taming the myriad irregular, criminal, and non-state groups that control local territory and illicit industries across the country.


There are many such groups operating in Venezuela today – often with overlapping allegiances and activities. Broadly speaking, they fall into three groups:

First, there are those directly co-opted by the state. Well-armed neighborhood criminal gangs called colectivos suppress anti-regime dissent in the capital, Caracas. These groups work with other quasi-official repression squads that the government has created as an insurance policy against the fickle loyalties of rank and file soldiers and police officers.

Second there are regional criminal syndicates who control vast illegal mining and drug trafficking industries, particularly in the East, operating in cahoots with local or national officials, as well as with transnational crime networks.

Third, there are outside militants: the most formidable of which are Colombian rebels from the ELN – that country's largest remaining narcotrafficking insurgent group – which the Chavista regime has long sheltered and supported. Last month, the ELN claimed responsibility for the bombing of a police academy in the Colombian capital that killed 21 cadets -- the bomber belonged to a unit reportedly commanded from within Venezuela.

Even if a resolution of the standoff between Messrs. Guaido and Maduro is possible, all of these groups will be angling to expand their positions and exploit the local power vacuums created by a shifting national political dynamic. As a result, any new government, and the military loyal to it, will quickly have to contend with these groups' capacity to wreak havoc.

The worst outcome would be a badly patchworked Venezuela in which the writ of central authority (or competing authorities) is fragmented throughout the country, opening the way to further violence and instability.

The bottom line: As the high drama in Caracas unfolds, keep an eye on these irregular, non-state players whose prerogatives, power, and loyalties will be critical in shaping Venezuela's future.

Democrats have the power to impeach Donald Trump.

After all, impeachment simply requires a majority vote of the House of Representatives, and Democrats hold 235 seats to just 199 for Republicans.

Of course, impeaching the president is only the first step in removing him from office. It's merely an indictment, which then forces a trial in the Senate. Only a two-thirds supermajority vote (67 of 100 senators) can oust the president from the White House. Just two US presidents (Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998) have been impeached. Neither was convicted by the Senate.

Many Democrats, including two of the party's presidential candidates, argue the Mueller Report and other sources of information offer ample evidence that President Trump has committed "high crimes and misdemeanors," the standard for removal from office under Article Two of the US Constitution. But the impeachment question has provoked intense debate within the Democratic Party.

Here are the strongest arguments on both sides of the Democratic Party's debate.

More Show less

Should Sri Lanka have blocked social media following the terror attacks?

That's a hard one. Misinformation spreads on social media and there's an instinct to say, "Wait, stop it!" But a lot of useful information also spreads and people get in touch with each other. So I would say no they should not have blocked it.

Are Tesla cars at risk of exploding?

There was one video from China of a parked Tesla exploding. I don't think you really have to worry about it though. I am curious to know what that video was really about.

Why do tech companies hate the census citizenship question?

Because if you ask people whether they're citizens. A lot of people will answer and you'll get bad data and the card companies need to know where they set up their operations. Good data matter to Silicon Valley.

What happened during the Space X Crew Dragon accident?

We don't know this one for sure either but one of the engines in a SpaceX test exploded. No one was hurt. Let's hope it was something to do with the way it was set up - not something deep and systematic.


And go deeper on topics like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence at Microsoft Today in Technology.

What's troubling you today? A revisionary new talk show hosted by Vladimir Putin offers real solutions to your everyday problems.

Crises create opportunities. That's the story of European politics over the past decade, and Spain offers an especially interesting case in point.

On Sunday, Spanish voters will go to the polls in the country's third national election in less than four years. Gone are the days when just two parties (center-right and center-left) dominated Spain's national political landscape. As in other EU countries, the economic spiral and resulting demand for austerity triggered by Europe's sovereign debt crisis, and then a title wave of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East, have boosted new parties and players. Catalan separatists have added to Spain's political turmoil.

More Show less