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Venezuela: A Diplomatic Coup?


Many living outside of Venezuela have been following the ongoing attempted coup d’etat with fully deserved attention.

Not only does it set a worrying precedent of blunt-edged US meddling in the region, but it also runs against the Venezuelan Constitution and local laws. The recognition of an unelected leader by a host of governments also clearly violates the cornerstone of international law, including the United Nations and Organisation of American States charters, as well as foundational principles safeguarding countries’ right to sovereignty and self-determination.

The revelations of how Juan Guaido has achieved recognition from 25 percent of the world’s governments have made plenty of headlines, as mainstream media shines once again with its manipulation and distortion, describing the unelected coup-mongers as “democratic” and the elected president as a “dictator”.

But, given grandiose claims of parallel governments, social upheaval, and a new start for Venezuela being repeated across the MSM, one of the key questions that everyone is asking is: What’s going on within Venezuela itself?

The answer, however, is not much.

The Venezuelan streets are calm (for now). Shops are opening, people are going to work, to school, going about their business of trying to survive the harsh economic recession and find money to pay prices which seem to increase every day.

Little has changed since January 23 within Venezuelan life. The buses still run inefficiently, there are still long queues to get cash at the banks and there still are power cuts. We even saw another violent attack by landlord-paid mercenaries against Chavista campesinos last week, an unfortunate trademark of the past few years.

Breaking the day-to-day doldrum and to reinforce their side of the debate, both the opposition and Chavismo have held marches. Guaido’s followers held one major rally since he proclaimed himself president, while pro-government forces also held a large rally the same day, and have been holding regional protests against the coup almost every day throughout the provinces.

Apart from the isolated outbreaks of violent protests during the evening of January 23 and the couple of days following, which were largely led by hard-right forces, thankfully no more major incidents of public disorder have been reported.

Conspicuously absent are any of the tell-tale signs of a genuine power shift that might indicate that the government is about to fall.

Public offices have not replaced photos of Nicolas Maduro and Hugo Chavez withthose of Juan Guaido and Donald Trump. Official documents have not stopped using the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” headed paper instead of the “Republic of Venezuela” as Guaido’s followers are promoting. No military barracks have replaced the eight-starred flag with it’s seven starred predecessor.

Venezuelans know a thing or two about coup d’etats, with 2002 still fresh in the memory. For 47 hours, the 2002 coup bought about a clear shift in the power dynamics in the country. As part of the current attempted coup, no such shift has been seen either in Caracas or even in the most anti-government regions such as the east of Caracas, Merida and Tachira states, and Maracaibo City

Unlike in 2002, no political or community leaders are taking refuge in government buildings under siege from right wing forces. Likewise, unlike in that fateful year, no leading government officials have been kidnapped by fascist thugs, no allied foreign embassies are under attack, and no Chavistas are being persecuted, hunted down or dragged onto the streets.

Even the violent insurrectional street protests of 2013, 2014 and 2017 – all sparked by hard-right leaders with the objective of overthrowing the democratically elected government of Maduro – smelled more of a genuine power shift in the country, especially in the opposition strongholds. Along with 2002, the Bolivarian process survived all of these attempts.

Unlike in 2014, in the latest attempt to oust the government, thankfully no barricades have been set up, no homes have been burnt, no motorcyclists have been beheaded by wires strung across the streets and no one is hunting down the Cuban doctors accusing them of being military spies, as occured in 2013.

Rather, there is an eerie calm in Venezuela right now, which, to anyone who is cut off from the heated struggles in the diplomatic arena, would suggest that nothing has happened at all.

For the most part, Chavista organisations are preparing themselves physically, organisationally, mentally, and ideologically for potential battles to come.

Opposition supporters are waiting with great expectation for the new golden boy to deliver on his promise.

But life (and recession) continues.

Conclusion? Beyond shaking up a number of international relations, the man whose name 81 percent of Venezuelans didn’t even know one month ago has not managed to spur the country into the sort of popular action at all levels of society which he probably needs to make this attempted coup a reality. A handful of well-supported marches do not topple a government, even if Washington and the mainstream press say it does.

The lack of domestic power struggles such as those seen in past years, symbolic or otherwise, is a clear sign that at least here in Venezuela, Guaido is without the tools, grassroots organisation, or even the popular support needed to achieve his objectives.

Guaido’s international backing is his greatest tool, and it is concerning that he may have to rely on foreign economic and/or military pressure to compensate for his domestic shortcomings, which may only spell bloodshed and further economic crisis for ordinary Venezuelans. As such, whilst this is without a doubt an attempted coup d’état, for now, it is only a diplomatic coup.

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