Today’s major news is that Venezuela’s legitimate President Nicolas Maduro survived a twenty-four hour long concerted military and apparently paramilitary coup attempt after the months long political coup against his presidency has not resulted in the “regime change” that Washington openly desires. In spite of a speech from US National Security Advisor John Bolton filled with the rhetoric of “shock and awe”, what transpired in Caracas was a comparatively minor provocation by some defectors from the Venezuelan military along with what appeared to be militant volunteers loyal to the officers leading the coup attempt.
The result of the attempted military coup that was brazenly called for both by Bolton and by pretender “president” Juan Guaidó, ended up creating nothing other than shambolic scenes of its “military leaders” running into foreign embassies to claim asylum. Such embassies were reportedly the Chilean and Brazilian embassies in Caracas, but notably not the Ecuadorian embassy which has an infamous history of violating asylum claims.
Just because yesterday was a strategic and soft-power triumph for the legitimate government, this certainly does not mean that the US is about to give up on regime change. On the contrary, while Washington’s anti-Caracas strategy is being self-evidently directed by John Bolton as it was from the beginning when Guaidó swore himself in as president in the middle of a Caracas street, the spectre of property man Donald Trump continues to hang in the ether.
The reason that “property man” Trump must be emphasised is that whilst America’s infamous “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq destroyed not only human life but Iraq’s once modern infrastructure, in Venezuela the US is doing all it can not to destroy the country’s infrastructure. The rationale is that the US does not want to spend substantial amounts of money rebuilding the country but instead simply wants the keys to the country’s existing oil infrastructure handed over to US businesses – something that a puppet pro-US regime in Caracas would obviously do in a matter of hours.
Secondly, while virtually no one in Iraq supported the US invasion, including traditional opponents of Saddam Hussein, in Venezuela part of the middle and virtually all of the upper class do in fact support regime change. This is a minority of the overall population to be sure, but it does represent a highly different situation from Iraq.
Because of this, the US is applying a ‘little-by-little, step-by-step’ approach to Venezuela. In other words, the US will turn up the proverbial heat on the legitimate government one step at a time until achieving its objective of regime change. Since yesterday’s attempted coup did not work, one can expect something more drastic in the coming days and weeks and if that doesn’t work, something even more drastic will follow that.
While this is “delayed satisfaction” from the US perspective, it nevertheless is a money saving tactic compared to the total obliteration techniques used against Washington’s opponents during the Bush and Obama years. For a self-described penny-pincher like Trump, this has a logical aim: “classic regime change at a bargain price”.
For Nicolas Maduro himself, this strategy does in fact give him extra time to consider the best strategy to resist illegal regime change, but it nevertheless means that he is nowhere near out of the woods. The US remains the world’s most powerful military and Venezuela’s militarily strong partners are all located in other hemispheres. This means that if the US wanted to conduct a “shock and awe” campaign against Caracas, it would likely be over in a day or so.
International supporters of the legitimate government of Venezuela owe it to themselves to be realistic. Maduro just beat a US backed coup conducted by a few local military men who couldn’t muster enough support to do anything tangible. But this is not the beginning of the end and it is hardly even in the end of the beginning.