When faced with the reality that the US was going to throw everything it had at Venezuela in order to foment illegal regime change, President Nicolas Maduro astutely realised that the prospect of his major allies China, Russia and Turkey intervening militarily, was simply not going to happen. Because Venezuela is inconveniently located in the geopolitical “backyard” of the United States, it was always utterly ridiculous to claim that outside military aid could have conceivably been Maduro’s solution to the crisis, as even at the height of the Cold War, the eastern powers had little effect on political developments in the region (with the lone exception of Cuba).
This left Maduro with two other options. The first would be to declare martial law, move to arrest of all his suspected opponents and in doing so, run the risk of an open civil war between those loyal to Maduro and those backed by the United States. Instead, Maduro has opted for a vastly more nuanced approach.
Rather than trigger the crisis that the US seems to be doing everything it can to provoke, Maduro’s solution has been to more or less carry on governing in as normal a way as is possible. This has meant no shutting down of opposition media, no curfews, no martial law, no state of emergency and no mass arrests of either the real or self-proclaimed opposition. Beyond this, whilst pretender “president” Juan Guaidó is doing everything he can to get himself arrested, in order to trigger the US into action, Maduro has openly failed to enforce his country’s own laws against Guaidó. In this sense, Maduro is doing his best to kill the coup with kindness.
After defying a travel ban, Guaidó just travelled back to Venezuela where he and his American minders clearly wanted him to be arrested in spectacular fashion. Instead, he re-entered Venezuela and nothing happened. Considering that Maduro has limited options in terms of foreign military aid, whilst declaring martial law was always going to be a major gamble by any stretch of logic, his method for the time being is one that encourages a political stalemate on the ground.
Instead of making Guaidó a “political martyr”, Maduro is either ignoring his antics or otherwise mocking them using fairly standard political rhetoric. Apart from demonstrating that the military is ready to defend against civil insurrection, Venezuela is surprisingly “the same as it ever was”, considering the extraordinary challenges the country is facing.
The question for Maduro now is: how long can this be kept up? The US is clearly itching for an excuse to mobilise its armed assets against the legal Venezuelan government and as Maduro has failed to provide Washington with such an excuse, Washington may well be looking to either stage a false flag or simply release its proverbial hounds without any proximate cause (real or imagined).
In this sense, Maduro’s position remains one that is certainly not to be envied, but with his back against the wall of US military might, Maduro has thus far been wise to fight fire with water.