GZERO Media logo

Why Juan Guaidó’s “Coup” Failed: A Chat with Naunihal Singh

Why Juan Guaidó’s “Coup” Failed: A Chat with Naunihal Singh

Earlier this week, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó failed to topple the regime of Nicolás Maduro after calling on members of the military and his fellow citizens to rise up. We spoke with scholar and coup expert Nauinihal Singh on why things didn't go Mr. Guaidó's way. The exchange has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.


1. Why do coups succeed or fail?

What matters most is information and expectations. That's because information and expectations are self-fulfilling. If people start to believe that your side is going to win, and that view spreads, it's more likely that it actually will.

The first thing you need to do is make a public broadcast. The key here is that you're not talking to the people of the country but to military actors to try and convince them you've already won.

2. What mistakes did Juan Guaidó make this week?

He made his announcement via Twitter. Firstly, who's going to be reading Twitter at 5:00 in the morning? Secondly, who's going to follow Juan Guaidó'? If you're a military commander, the last thing you want is for state intelligence to see that you follow Juan Guaidó.

Usually these broadcasts involve a general. Guaidó showed up with some low-ranking military figures in the background. You look at that and you say, I don't know who's supporting Guaidó. If he'd been standing side by side with generals, it would have had a very different impact.

What you need is the simultaneity that creates common knowledge. Twitter doesn't have that. A Tweet being viral means it's read by 2 percent of the population (over the course of five days), but a broadcast gets heard by everyone within the military at the same time. We don't have social media that operates that way right now.

3. What did you think of Maduro's response?

Maduro was weak as well. Ideally, Maduro would have been on television right away. The fact that he waited for 12 hours made him look weak, and that makes me wonder what's happening on his side

4. Can Guaidó turn things around?

Yes, there are times when a coup attempt fails initially but then eventually succeeds. Guaidó needs to underscore the fact that he hasn't being arrested. He needs to get a number of people out on the street and to show that the military is divided and not fully in support of Maduro. If he can achieve that, then it's possible that pressure from the street might cause enough division to topple the regime.


* Note: we use the phrase "coup" in the narrow technical sense of an attempt to take over government using force or the threat of force.

** Disclaimer: Naunihal Singh is a scholar at the US Naval War College. The views expressed here reflect his personal opinions and not those of his employer.

A decade ago, Bank of America established the Global Ambassadors Program with Vital Voices, and the results are phenomenal. We've provided 8,000 hours of training and mentoring, engaging 400 women from 85 countries and helping women around the world build their businesses.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.

Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.

Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.

More Show less

Less than a week before the US election, President Donald Trump is repeatedly questioning the legitimacy of the vote (if he doesn't win) over largely unsubstantiated claims of potential fraud in universal mail-in voting. But with absentee ballots coming in all-time highs in all states due to the coronavirus pandemic, some Americans worry that the system itself may not be able to handle such an influx of ballots, including those already cast by a record number of early voters. Whether or not you agree, Gallup data show that US citizens are now less confident that the election will be conducted accurately — and more concerned about election irregularities and voter suppression — than they were four years ago. We take a look at how Americans' views on these electoral integrity issues have changed from 2016 to 2020.

Belarus on strike: In recent days, the Belarusian streets have turned up the heat on strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, as thousands of state factory workers and students in Belarus heeded a call from opposition leader Svyatlana Tikhanouskaya to join a general strike. Protests have roiled the country since August, when Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won a presidential election widely regarded as rigged. Last Sunday, 100,000 people turned up in Minsk, the capital. Tikhanouskaya — who ran against Lukashenko in that election and is currently exiled in neighboring Lithuania — had demanded the president resign by October 26. When he didn't, the walkout began. In one of the most iconic moments of protest so far, a striking worker at a refrigerator factory climbed the plant's tower to record a dramatic call for Lukashenko to step down. Belarus has been hit with sanctions from the US and EU, both of which are calling on him to hold new elections, but so far he has shown no signs of backing down, deploying his riot police with the usual fury. Something's got to give, soon.

More Show less

Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

More Show less
UNGA banner

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal