international analysis and commentary

Venezuela’s uprising in context


In his call for an uprising against the regime of Nicolás Maduro, opposition leader Juan Guaido clearly has the majority of popular support in Venezuela and the crucial diplomatic and economic support of the Western world, that is, the leading nations of the Americas and Europe.

However, the support of Venezuela’s military and security forces remains far from monolithic. Increasing fragmentation largely reflects rank and generational fault lines. While Guaido can find more support within younger ranks, increasing uncertainty prevails when elevating the military hierarchy.

The challenge for Guaido remains the military’s top brass. Despite promises of amnesty, those most closely associated with the workings of the Maduro regime have not broken ranks until now. Many either simply have no Plan B, refuse to renounce access to power and privilege, remain ideologically committed or fundamentally fear prosecution by a new government – whether in the short-term or distant future. Hence, continued support for the Maduro regime by many elements in the military and security establishment.

Furthermore, with active Russian assistance, there is the effective Cuban factor propping up the regime, particularly after years of Infiltration into Venezuela’s security and military ranks.

In the meantime, China largely continues to sit on the fence and will ultimately support whoever guarantees and secures its long-term economic interests in Venezuela.

Since assuming power in 1998, the Bolivarian revolution and its staunchest ideological cadres both internally and externally – including domestic paramilitary units and Cuban advisors with Russian and Chinese technical assistance – have been prepared to confront any form of instability, uprising or challenge through the use of any means – including intimidation, violence and even murder – to protect and preserve total control over Venezuela and its resources.

Should the current uprising falter, the Maduro regime will likely use it as a pretext to declare an open-ended state of emergency to quell any form of dissent and a full blown dictatorship will ensue.

Although current dynamics on the ground in Venezuela are extremely fluid, and often unpredictable, the bottom line is that it will be those who dominate the oil wells and bullets, and not ballots, that will continue to determine Venezuela’s course for the foreseeable future.

Despite the fact that Venezuela is a western nation that geographically lies within the western orbit, it is largely nations beyond the western perimeter that continue to sustain the Maduro regime, and guarantee its survival, while relentlessly feeding off its natural resources.