Venezuelan President Maduro’s New Catch-22

Under normal circumstances, when a high ranking military officer declares his allegiance not to the lawful government and head of state of his nation, but to another internal or external force, such a man is self-evidently a traitor and will be swiftly punished as such. But for Venezuela which is in the midst of a US backed Twitter Coup, nothing is as straightforward as it used to be.

Today, Venezuelan General Francisco Yanez of the air force’s high command, stated that 90% of Venezuela’s armed forces back the self-appointed “President” Juan Guaido and as such, Yanez encouraged the rest of the wider country to back the Guaido’s self declared “leadership”.

Clearly, far less than 90% of Venezuela’s military supports Guaido as if this were the case, it would be difficult to imagine that President Maduro would still be living relatively peacefully in the Presidential palace. That being said, it cannot be assumed that Yanez is telling a total lie. Rather, it is probable given the circumstances, that a combination of right wing elements in the military combined with otherwise politically agnostic military personnel who have received assurances (or even delivery) of financial support from Washington, have decided to either quietly or vocally shift their loyalties towards the US backed pretender.

But beyond the always prescient question as to what a majority of the Venezuelan military would do when faced with the choice of either upholding Venezuelan law or alternatively, giving in to the combination of US pressure and US financial enticements towards mutiny, now President Maduro is faced with the immediately pressing issue of what to do with General Yanez.

On the one hand, Venezuela’s law dictates that a traitor like Yanez should be arrested before being judged and sentenced for his actions. And yet, if Maduro orders Yanez’s arrest, several possibilities could arise. First of all, it could trigger members of the armed forces personally loyal to Yanez and moreover loyal to Yanez’s choice of “president” to engage in civil combat against members of the armed forces loyal to Maduro. This could easily escalate into a conflict where armed civilians on both sides of the new political divide, join military men in fighting one another throughout Venezuela.

On the other hand, if those loyal to Maduro are able to physically apprehend Yanez and bring him to justice, the US will almost certainly say that Maduro has cruelly detained a political prisoner. This could easily trigger the US into conducting military action of its own against President Maduro’s government. Of course, Yanez is not a would-be political prisoner but is instead a self-evident traitor. That being said, the truth of legal fact as well as basic ethics have never been major factors in any US led regime change effort. This is especially true in respect of Venezuela, where all it took was the leader of Venezuela’s disputed legislative chamber, The National Assembly, to declare himself head of state and subsequently, the US recognised him as such without a second thought.

The final scenario is one in which Maduro does not react immediately to Yanez’s call for mutiny. This would make Maduro look incredibly weak in the face of a major provocation. This would suggest that Maduro is not in fact willing to fight for his political rights as a sovereign head of state, but might instead take the coward’s way out and abrogate his legal duties as former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych did in 2014 when he fled his own nation in the middle of the night.

Given that Venezuela’s most militarily powerful allies are all located in a different hemisphere, the choice for President Maduro is certainly not an easy one. He is faced with several options that each carry with them the potential to unleash major consequences. Thus, while Yanez clearly told a statistical lie, the very fact that his provocation is now fully out of the bag, puts the ball back in Maduro’s court and either way he kicks it, the US has a ready made response that can be set into action with comparative ease.

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