Over a month and a half without writing...
Then again I learned the limitations of writing from outside of Venezuela. January and February have been so eventful that just thinking seriously about the implications of the events was not possible: something came right along to cancel any prediction or conclusion one may have had (or at the very least to force a review). I like to think about things because I like to have a reasonably definite opinion. Over the years I think this served me well. This January I would have had to change more than once..... And I observed that many journalists did not bother correcting themselves (I am looking at you NYT, among others but you were a repeat offender).
Then again I was very active on twitter, the only way to follow the cascade of events.
So perhaps it is time for a summary of sorts now that things flow at a more normal pace.
What has not changed: the will of the regime to hold on.
That will was impressive, from the failed taking over the National Assembly on January 5 to the abduction of Guaido uncle at the airport on charges that he would have fooled airport security in Lisbon to carry explosive in a pocket light. Oh! He was also supposed to have a CIA contact on his cellular phone.
The reason remain the same: would they have to leave Miraflores Palace their crimes are too numerous to avoid jail. I am even wondering what country would offer them safe exile.....
What was wished to change.
The problem when January came was the leadership of the opposition in disarray. Hoping to oust Maduro by mid 2019 they had to accept the fact that it did not happen, nor the fact they did not know how to effect the change. As a result there was a conspiracy of sorts to discredit Juan Guaido, blaming him for everything, including things upon which he could not have any influence.
We got two serious attempts.
One was coming from the desire of the rather radical right that follows Maria Corina Machado. Very strong on social networks it remains that outside these networks they amounted to little. Once you leave Caracas the reality of the provinces puts you well away from the ideological concepts promoted by her followers. Real life is a bitch: outside Caracas it trumps tweeter. Their potential for destructive harm is strong but their failure about building an alternative is bigger.
The other one came from are a conglomerate of failed "opposition" groups that have decided to throw their lot behind a negotiation with the regime. They had meetings and declarations and photo ops but no results. The fact of the matter is that all together they amount to little: the country knows who is who. Negotiating with the regime again and again led nowhere. The only negotiation still possible, someday, is establish how and when Maduro and his combo will leave the country into exile. The regime has tried to create an opposition they like, going as far as a National Assembly coup. All for naught: useless mercenaries.
What is far from changing.
The leadership of Guaido.
The guy came weakened to the January 5 formal renewing of his mandate at the National Assembly. Yet the clumsiness of the regime barring entry to the opposition leadership, the images of Guaido trying to climb above the fences, the images from the chavista paid thugs all around the NA, and those of the passivity of the armed forces in front of chavista abuses, when not supporting them, did wonders for Guaido. On January 6 he got back part of his idol shine, all the opposition behind him, and renewed and expanded international support. Only Russia recognized the usurpers at the NA. It iss rumored that they exerted pressure to have it happen. Talk about a petard blowing on your face!
A recast Guaido then escaped the country for a grand tour that made him THE leader of the opposition. That is, from those trying to collaborate with the regime to Maria Corina Machado, they received the clear message that Guaido was the chosen opposition leader. Period. "Deal with Guaido first if you want to talk with us" is the message.
Guaido attended a summit in Colombia and was received by it president with state honors (and met a whole bunch of Latin American big wigs).
Then he went to Europe where he was received by: UK prime minister, French president, EU foreign representative, Davos where he was seen with the chancellors of Germany and Austria and the prime ministers of the Netherlands and Greece (that I remember now -1-).
Then he flew to North America starting with Canada where not only he was received by its prime minister, but attended a parliament session.
From there he took off to the US of A where a major secret plan awaited. No agenda was announced. Many salivated at the idea that just perhaps he would be received through the back door, or less (you know who you are). Instead they were surprised by Guaido being honored at the State of the Union address. A divided government found its only moment of unity when all, from Democrats to Republicans, stood up to salute Guaido. From then on he got state honors for a long visit at the White House. Next day the Speaker of the house received him. All of this stressed that not only the US approach to Venezuela is a fully bipartisan matter, but that Guiado was the chosen one for the transition as the lone opposition leader worth their time.
What may be about to change.
There are, of course, many implications to all of this.
First, the regime is furious. A few days before the trip of Guaido Maduro gave an interview to the WaPo where he played it self sufficient and in control and willing to talk to Trump. Well, that ended there.
Amen that the political crisis in Spain started when the Maduro envoy was barred from leaving Madrid airport. She is under international sanctions and as such barred from entering Europe. It hit all of them home: sanctions are real and if they have to make a unplanned stop in an unfriendly country, jail awaits them (they do travel a lot to Turkey for shady business, for example).
Second, after the international reception Guaido received things had to move. Europe is hopelessly slow but signs point out to actions (the EU parliament pre-approved them during Guaido grand tour). The UK now out of EU may act faster, we'll see. But all eyes are on the U.S., THE player here. Actions started: sanctions on Russia's Rosfnet oil concern have started. Chavista airline Conviasa is all but grounded. And more is in the works. Russia is certainly furious and China not sympathetic, but with Syria and Coronavirus they are not in the best moment for an active defense of Maduro....
Third, the regime is starting to move against Guaido, sort of untouchable until now. From his uncle arrested on no charges, to chavista gun men thugs pointing at him in the streets it seems that the regime is building up the resolve to kill Guaido. Jailing him could actually be worse for the regime I would dare to suggest...
Coming March will be Ides time. A massive movement is demanded by Guaido to the country on March 10. If he succeeds in bringing people back to the streets in protest it could well be the reckoning time: either the regime starts killing in earnest, or real negotiations may start. The amount of blood spilled will depend on what the international community does until March 10.
-1- the only major player that did not want to receive Guaido was the president of Spain who in exchange had to face a major political crisis!