Ambassador Curtis A. Ward

Most geopolitical analysts have concluded that there will be regime change in Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro will be out and Juan Guaidó will be in. All indicators so far support their assumptions. One major hurdle remains, and that is which side Venezuela’s military leaders will take – choosing between Maduro and Guaidó. So far, the military is sticking with Maduro, but Latin American militaries in the end follow the perceived winner.  Also, in the past, Latin American military leaders generally back themselves as the saviors of their countries in times of political turmoil.

Another reason I hesitate to rush to judgement on the outcome is the way the conflict in Syria has played out over the past few years.  There appeared to be a singular purpose pursued by the United States and its European and Middle Eastern allies to effect regime change in Syria.  According to the U.S. and its allies, there were no circumstances under which Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad would be allowed to remain leader of Syria. Now that U.S. President Donald Trump has abandoned that objective, Assad is far stronger today than he was two years ago. One major factor which ensured Assad’s retention of power in Syria is Russian presence and Putin’s backing.

The appointment by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of Cold War neocon Elliott Abrams as Special Representative for Venezuela confirms the Trump Administration’s end game. Abrams and his colleague, the National Security Adviser to the President, John Bolton, another Cold War neoconservative hawk, both have confirmed Trump’s earlier declaration the military option is on the table. Both the State Department and the White House are in sync. However, while there is growing support in the U.S. for Maduro’s exit from Venezuela, there is very little support for use of the military option to remove him. Even Republican legislators who support regime change step back from use of the U.S. military to oust Maduro.

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