From Caracas. The coup chess game is accelerating in time of pandemic. The United States, at the forefront of the strategy to overthrow Nicolás Maduro, took a new step: it proposed the creation of a “Council of State for a transitional government”, in which neither Maduro nor the opposition leader Juan Guaidó would be present, to call presidential elections before the lifting of the blockade.
The announcement was made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and details published by the State Department under the title “Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela”.
The U.S. roadmap proposes that the National Assembly (NA), headed by Guaidó, should appoint a new National Electoral Council, a new Supreme Court of Justice, and create the Council of State to become the executive branch. This Council would be made up of four members of the NA – with the participation of Chavista deputies – who would in turn designate the fifth member to serve as president.
Once the Council had assumed all the presidential powers, and with the departure of “foreign security forces”, the US would lift the sanctions “against the government, PDVSA and the oil industry”. Finally, the Council of State would convene legislative and presidential elections within a period of six to twelve months, and, after their completion, the “remaining sanctions” would be removed.
The transitional architecture created by the United States seeks to build on the figure of the Council of State that appears in Articles 251 and 252 of the Constitution. However, the constitutional text states that this body is for consultation with the government and not to replace a president, and the election system described by the US is not the one dictated by the constitutional text.
The legal and constitutional dimension is, in fact, secondary. The words of Pompeo and Elliot Abrams, special envoy for the Venezuela file, come five days after the Attorney General, William Barr, announced a reward of $15 million for Maduro and $10 million for Diosdado Cabello.
The so-called “transition framework” appears in this context as an attempt to offer a way out or surrender where Maduro, Cabello, and a few other leaders are removed, but not all of the leadership. The State Department text states that the “military high command remains in place during the transition government”, as do governors and mayors, and does not exclude the United Socialist Party of Venezuela from the new political period.
According to U.S. force correlation calculations, a point of encirclement has been reached that could lead to an internal rupture. This reading is based on a central component: the economy and, in particular, the situation of oil prices which have been falling for several weeks now. President Maduro stated that the sale price of the Venezuelan barrel does not cover its extraction cost, which, in the Venezuelan economy, represents a transversal and deep impact.
The perspective of an improvement in prices is still far away due to the global economic crisis within which the drop in oil demand, an excess of production, a progressive saturation of stocks, and a drop in prices within the framework of a lack of agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and an incipient dialogue between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on this matter are framed.
The combination of the economic blockade and the fall in oil prices thus forms a very difficult picture for the Venezuelan economy. However, the Venezuelan government has the backing of, for example, Russia, where, among other things, Putin’s government has bought the assets of the Rosneft oil company in Venezuela.
It would not be the first time that Washington has made a miscalculation regarding the situation in Venezuela. The very formation of a parallel government with Guaidó at its head, unable to carry out the announced transition, was the expression of such an error.
It is not surprising that his figure is put aside in the scheme of the Council of State: Guaidó has progressively lost its political capital until it was blurred by the pandemic. According to Abrams, Guaidó’s request to resign is a response to the fact that whoever presides over the Council will not be able to run in the elections and, therefore, removing the self-proclaimed president would allow him to run later.
It is unlikely that this new American call will generate an internal breakdown. Instead, their presentation can be interpreted as the preparation of the ground that would follow Maduro’s planned departure through a covert operation. This hypothesis was once again confirmed last week when a military operation being prepared from Colombia was dismantled.
As a result of this same operation, the Public Prosecutor’s Office called Guaidó to appear next Thursday. That summons could become a new moment of heightened tension since Guaidó will surely not attend.
This situation makes it clear that the pandemic scenario, instead of promoting dialogue and lifting the blockade – as requested by the Grupo de Puebla and Michelle Bachelet, among others – has led to the United States seeking to speed up their outcome with offers of millions of dollars in information, capture and death – last week they offered fifteen million dollars for Maduro’s head – as well as economic suffocation used as extortionate currency.
Translation by Internationalist 360º