Nearly four months into the Venezuelan Presidential crisis, it has come the closest so far to a literal coup dynamic. On the morning of Tuesday 30 April, Juan Guaidó, the self-declared interim President of Venezuela, appeared in a video near a Caracas air base with opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who had previously been kept under house arrest. Accompanied by men in military uniforms, Guaidó announced the “final phase of Operation Liberty”, calling on troops and civilians to make a last push against the incumbent President Nicolas Maduro. Protests erupted in the streets.
This time, several national guard units joined the pro-opposition demonstrators, clashing with security forces still loyal to Maduro. That was the first time in the Presidential crisis that military personnel have directly combatted each other.
Reportedly, one Venezuelan colonel was shot during the confrontation. In fact, the military element didn't expand, and the bulk of Guaidó’s operation was civilian protests. Despite this being the most direct and dramatic challenge to his rule so far, Maduro very much retained the upper hand. Although Guaidó was clearly banking on splitting the Venezuelan armed forces, only a handful of national guard platoons defected to his side. The vast majority of the Venezuelan top brass remained loyal to Maduro.
At least 52 people were injured in Caracas during the protests. Footage that appeared to show armoured vehicles attempting to run down anti-Maduro demonstrators on the highway quickly spread across social media. Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino López condemned Guaido's move as a terrorist act that was certain to fail.
President Trump has threatened Cuba, a consistent ally of Maduro’s regime, with an embargo and new sanctions. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reiterated that military action in Venezuela is “possible”. It is far from clear whether such sabre-rattling will actually become an armed intervention, but it is certainly possible that the White House is considering more drastic moves to topple Maduro after the events of this week.
We condemn Guaidó’s attempt to seize control of Venezuela via an armed revolt, his alliances with right-wing demagogues like Trump and Bolsonaro, and the neoliberal and pro-imperialist government his party would almost certainly form if he were to take power. As always, none of this should be taken as political support for Maduro himself.
Nevertheless, Maduro’s ousting at the hands of a rival military faction within the Bonapartist state apparatus or, worse yet, a foreign invasion force, would only deepen an already dire situation for Venezuelan working class.