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Guaido's military mutiny miscalculation

16 15 29

One month on from Juan Guaido's decision to declare himself acting president of Venezuela in parallel to President Nicolas Maduro, the country remains in a strange and dangerous limbo. Guaido has unified an opposition prone to fragmentation, received recognition from scores of foreign countries, and gained the support of various international institutions.

But despite his offer of an amnesty for military personnel transferring their allegiance to his presidency, only a handful of Venezuela's thousands of generals have made the switch. Even a major standoff over allowing US aid into the country on February 23 saw only a small number of defections by low-ranking officials.

So what went wrong? In short, Guaido's plan to remove Maduro with military help was undermined by his misjudgment of how the military perceives the opposition and how resilient the decades-old civil-military alliance in Venezuela would prove. But this should not be seen as bad news. Military action of any kind, internal or external, would be fraught with danger in Venezuela's volatile situation. A negotiated transition towards free elections offers a far better way forward.

Guaido's first gamble, when declaring himself president on January 23, was that members of the military high command were simply waiting for an opportunity to overthrow Maduro. But the intoxicating mix of newfound unity and foreign support proved misleading, and there were no significant defections.

A month later, Guaido and the Trump administration orchestrated a standoff at Venezuela's borders over the entry of humanitarian aid, hoping that military officials would refuse to be directly and publicly complicit in the suffering of their countrymen by blocking aid at the border.

But the assumption that moral pressure and declarations of a possible amnesty would be enough again proved misguided.

The backdrop to any discussion of the Venezuelan military must be its politicisation long before and during the presidency of Hugo Chavez.

Although Chavez is often depicted as having appeared into Venezuelan politics out of nowhere onto the Venezuelan political scene, he founded the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 within the military in 1982 - 16 years before his election win in 1998.

By 1992, the movement had grown strong enough to launch a viable coup attempt against President Carlos Andres Perez, ultimately landing Chavez in jail and sowing the seeds of the popular support that would later win him the presidency.

In office, Chavez developed this movement into a broader civil-military alliance that emphasised social responsibility, participation in national development, and anti-imperialism.

Today these three pillars of the civil-military........

© Al Jazeera