Juan Guaido’s abortive coup in Venezuela this week would go down in history as a pathetic spectacle if it wasn’t so dangerous.
The right in Venezuela, with the strong backing of the US, is trying to seize control of the state. And, despite Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s bluster, the threat has not gone away.
On Tuesday morning Guaido posted a video of himself outside the Carlota military base in Caracas flanked by a handful of what appeared to be soldiers. He called for people to come and join him – thousands did.
They tried to force a way into the army base but were repelled, then moved to another location in Caracas.
Icon of the right and leader of the Voluntad Popular party Leopoldo Lopez joined Guaido outside the base. He tweeted that he had been “freed” by “President Guaido”.
“We have to mobilise,” he added. “It’s time to conquer freedom. Strength and faith.”
Now Lopez is hiding in the Spanish embassy and Guaido has retreated to a secret location, while still imploring people to take to the streets.
He has called for rolling strikes, with the first supposed to begin on Thursday this week, culminating in a general strike. There has been little sign of take-up so far.
Some people did come out to defend Maduro. But the numbers were nothing like the popular mobilisations that defended previous Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez from right wing attacks.
Guaido remains free despite his coup attempt. If Maduro had him arrested, it would enrage Guaido’s backers in the US, Europe and across Latin America.
Soon after Guaido made his move on Tuesday the US foreign policy establishment rushed to support him. Some in Trump’s administration went as far as to suggest that the US would intervene militarily.
“If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do,” said US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
Guaido’s move came one day after Eric Prince claimed he could put 5,000 mercenaries on the ground in Venezuela. Prince owns the infamous Blackwater private security firm.
Others in the US administration—John Bolton and Elliot Abrams—tried to pressure members of Maduro’s government into turning on him.
US sanctions have had a brutal effect on the already weak Venezuelan economy, slashing the value of the country’s oil exports. Venezuela has the largest proven reserves of oil in the world.
Maduro is right to point to the savagery of US imperialism. But his government has presided over vicious attacks on ordinary people while leaving the wealth of the Venezuelan rich largely untouched.
Meanwhile he has cosied up to other imperial powers in Russia and China. Some reports claim that Maduro was ready to step down on Tuesday of this week, but Russian intervention prevented him from doing so.
The lives of ordinary people of Venezuela are being used as bargaining chips in a game between the US and its imperial rivals.
There must be mobilisation by ordinary people against the US and the right. And it should fight to go beyond the limits of Maduro’s government.