How Do You Prepare a Coup in the 21st Century?

Marco Teruggi is understood. If you read the big media, the international news agencies, the statements of presidents like Macri or Duque, the secretary general of the OAS, Luis Almagro, or the phrases of Catherine Fulop or Ricardo Montaner, you simply cannot understand. Wasn’t Nicolás Maduro about to fall? Wasn’t it that millions of people were on the streets demanding not only his throne but also his life?

Many times the same correspondents specially sent to the country do not understand anything: Nelson Castro in war correspondent pose with a plastic motorcycle helmet that only serves to avoid fines, an international photographer with the best lens in the market looking for the massive convocation of Juan Guaidó and only finds handfuls of followers. They don’t understand, or they are mercenaries with full consciousness of contributing their images, their articles, their tweets towards a precise objective: to overthrow Maduro.

The distance between the media-political construction and what is actually happening is immense. The conflict in Venezuela cannot be understood unless one is always attentive to it, suspicious of the news, the headlines, the images. Nothing can be taken for granted: you have to confirm sources, accounts, and disbelieve. For example: Guaidó maintains that on April 30 there was a massive mobilization of society in support of the military action he tried to lead in Caracas. That day, at the most opportune time and in the best place, there were no more than five thousand people. He also said that a large part of the country had mobilized and there was no report that could substantiate it.

It is not new for the right to lie. In Venezuela, the right wing has the particularity of being unstable, unreliable, of shooting each other in the foot, and of being disdainfully classist. The United States have taken the public lead, among other things, for that very reason. It was as blatant as it was with impunity: Guaidó proclaimed himself president in a plaza at the antipodes of the presidential palace, Donald Trump tweeted that he recognized him, followed by the right-wing governments of Latin America, Europe, Israel, Canada, Great Britain, and analyses multiplied, affirming with resounding forcefulness that Venezuela had two presidents. However, the only way to claim this was to be ignorant, or a mercenary who understands nothing.

When we say the United States, we are talking about different parts that make up a whole that in turn contains tensions, disputes and differences. In the case of the operation against Venezuela there are several central pieces: President Trump, his administration with those in charge of the plans, and the deep state. The first one is a central piece: gunman, loudmouth, clumsy, with the same logic as a mafia businessman who constantly threatens to achieve better negotiations. His team combines neoconservatives, who come from Ronald Reagan’s administration, the “dirty wars” of Central America, the invasions in the Middle East, the Israeli lobby, and men from the depths of the sewers of the intelligence services. The main trident is John Bolton, security advisor; Elliot Abrams, special envoy; and Mike Pompeo, secretary of state. All three have criminal records of massacres, torture and lies. As for the deep state, these are the generally invisible structures that drive U.S. strategic policies and remain unchanged whoever is in the White House. In the case of Venezuela, the objective known as Chavismo was maintained by George Bush, Barack Obama and Trump. They changed methods, narratives, moments of assaults in accordance with the internal tides of the United States, the world map of conflicts or the Latin American continent.

What role did they give Guaidó in this architecture of the coup d’état? To be the national façade, the Venezuelan face to head a strategy previously used in the Middle East: the parallel government armed, financed and mobilized from outside. What expectations did they have of him? At the beginning they bet on creating a leadership with the capacity to mobilize people in a situation of right-wing desolation. It was discarded after the inability evidenced on April 30 and the following days. Guaidó peddled smoke, although, according to what was published in newspapers such as the Washington Post, Trump was dissatisfied with the U.S. sources of intelligence regarding the information they handled. Is it true? You always have to be suspicious.

The scene was shocking: a group of soldiers on a bridge with long weapons, ribbons of bullets, civilians with pistols, Guaidó, Leopoldo López, in the emblematic zone of the opposition in Caracas – A Palermo. The confusion was also striking, the fugitive ended up in the Spanish embassy, and the challengers in the Brazilian embassy. Pompeo affirmed that Maduro had his plane ready to leave, but the Russians had forced him to stay. As unbelievable as Guaidó’s statement that he could not carry out a coup d’état because he is the real president.

The United States took notes. Pompeo and Bolton reinforced the threat of military intervention, met with the secretary of defense at the Pentagon and the head of the Southern Command. Everything was escalating when Trump called Putin and changed the narrative: Russia would not be militarily involved in Venezuela. He deflated the anti-Russian air balloon he had constructed himself. As they repeated, Maduro would be sustained only by the support of Russia, Cuba, along with China and Iran. Pompeo travelled to Finland to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, after the latter’s meeting with Venezuelan Chancellor Jorge Arreaza. The two powers debated much more than Venezuela, disputing issues such as Ukraine, North Korea, Middle East. The world is a political, military, economic chessboard, geopolitical disputes are open, the United States no longer plays and destroys as before. That is why, among other things, the US wants Venezuela and the continent integrally aligned.

Regarding Venezuela, Trump can say the opposite tomorrow: it is the style applied in North Korea and in business. What hasn’t changed for the moment is the decision to achieve a victory, not to leave empty-handed. The problem is that the current situation was not as expected. Things had to move faster, a matter of weeks at most. This was acknowledged by Spain’s own foreign minister. This is what is called a miscalculation. The Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB) had to be broken, the Guaidó effect had to be unstoppable, and the blockade on the economy together with sabotage actions had to unleash popular anger. It didn’t happen. So they have to escalate the stakes or gamble again in the medium term.

There are a series of possibilities: a direct action against the president or high command figures, a deployment of mercenary forces with escalation of military actions, a new attempt to end the FANB via fracture but now with headquarters, generals and institutional failures.

Why were they mistaken in their reading of the battlefield? That same question was asked in 2017 and the answers are not so different. The first is that they reduced Chavismo to a civic-military presidential circle. Everything else would have vanished: the political identity, the popular organization that takes many forms, the mobilization, the party, the will to fight, the resilience, the defense of a cause. If Chavismo was dead, it was enough to take a kick at the Miraflores palace for Maduro to flee. But the reading was wrong: Americans and opponents analyse Venezuela from offices, from abroad, from the dollarized bubbles of the silver zones of the country, from social networks.

The second is that they thought the FANB would break through a combination of threats, amnesty proposals, million-dollar packages to spearhead betrayals and uprisings. That card was intended for key dates, such as February 23, when they attempted forced entry via Colombia with the star participation of Maluma, Miguel Bose or Diego Torres, on April 30 at dawn. Is there a guarantee that the FANB won’t break? No. But so far it hasn’t happened, and without that the possibility of the final assault is unlikely.

The situation is complex. Because of the violence of the assaults under preparation, the actors and objectives at stake, because of the economic practicality evidenced by a country that is regressing due to an international economic blockade, accumulated errors of its own, inability to resolve the conjunction of both variables, and that has zones of the country where hurricanes occur and a capital that maintains levels of greater stability and a magic that is always Caribbean. Only one month is a remote distance, and, for the moment, there is no terrain of necessary dialogue to resolve the scenario. The forecasts are by approximation, synthesis of so many national variables, geopolitics, desires or the certainty of the need to fight, that which inhabits the subsoil that emerged with Chávez and will not surrender.

Translation by Internationalist 360°