Posted by Curt on 30 April, 2019 at 4:45 pm. 1 comment.


Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s attempt to gain power in Caracas faltered Tuesday because of Russian and Cuban support for strongman Nicolás Maduro, according to current and former U.S. officials.

“There are a lot of folks who don’t want to see democracy restored who are going to fight to protect the spoils that they have,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Washington Examiner as he left a Senate Republican lunch meeting Tuesday afternoon. “And certainly the Cubans and the Russians are hard at that.”

President Trump’s top national security adviser John Bolton was more specific. He told reporters that three high-ranking Maduro regime officials broke a promise to defect to Guaidó — the top opposition lawmaker whom the United States and dozens of other Western democracies recognized as the legitimate interim president in January — because of pressure from the Cuban regime.

“All agreed Maduro had to go,” Bolton said, naming Venezuelan defense minister Vladimir Padrino and two others. “They committed to support ousting Maduro, and it’s time for them now, if the Cubans will let them do it, to fulfill their commitments.”

Padrino, for his part, has been issuing public condemnations of Guaidó throughout the day. “At the moment entering the operating room,” he tweeted after a colonel in the Venezuelan military was shot. “I hold the opposition political leadership responsible.”

Guaidó’s call for a military uprising seemed momentous. He appeared alongside Leopoldo López, a long-detained political mentor who has rescued from house arrest to make a joint appeal for the Venezuelan military to abandon Maduro amid mass protests from the opposition’s supporters. They struck Tuesday morning, one day ahead previously scheduled protests, in an apparent effort to surprise the regime with a show of support from military defectors decked out in blue armbands and bandanas.

Maduro, backed by Cuba’s expert intelligence services, was less surprised than Guaidó’s had hoped, according to a regional expert who discussed the situation on condition of anonymity. “I heard about this two weeks ago,” a former senior U.S. diplomat told the Washington Examiner. “They were recruiting federal officers to participate, including retired people to support it, and so frankly, if I heard it, everybody knew … the regime obviously saw this coming.”

Padrino was contemptuous, even as Bolton and other U.S. officials warned that he is on the cusp of losing any hope of amnesty from Guaidó in the event that Maduro falls. “A mediocre coup d’etat attempt has failed,” he said Tuesday.

Maduro has been emboldened by Russian and Cuban support, U.S. officials agree, while the disappointment of Tuesday morning revived private complaints that Trump’s team has failed to match Moscow and Havana’s determination in the Venezuela crisis. “They know we’re bluffing, and they know that we’re not going to use force,” the former senior U.S. diplomat said.

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