The words of the president of the United States raise concern among the opposition to Chavismo and force the White House to clarify that confidence in the head of Parliament is still intact.
The possibility that Donald Trump and Nicolás Maduro hold a meeting, in itself, shakes Venezuela’s political balance and sows concern in the opposition. The President of the United States opened the door to a meeting with the Venezuelan during an interview, but also expressed doubts about the support that his Administration gave to Juan Guaidó by recognizing him as interim president.
That is to say. He questioned the strategy maintained for the last year and a half and dealt a blow to the head of Parliament. This, who has not yet wanted to pronounce on Trump’s statements to the Axios news portal, known on Sunday, has been facing his darkest stage for weeks, amid harsh internal and external questions.
The scope of his words forced the White House to officially clarify that the president has not lost faith in the opposition leader. He stated on Twitter that the purpose of the meeting would only be to discuss the Chavista leader’s departure from power. Trump’s position was never debated, although the lukewarmness shown towards Guaidó coincides with the doubts that the Venezuelan opposition leader generated in the US Administration and that are collected by former National Security Minister John Bolton’s book, which is published this Tuesday.
The severe crisis of Venezuela has always had in its background the White House. And that presence, at the same time real and symbolic, has intensified since Guaidó launched his challenge to the Government in early 2019. The failure of the management of the Chavista regime has been added suffocation generated by the United States’ sanctions, which accuses Maduro himself of international drug trafficking and, at the same time, the stability and protection of the opposition leader depend mainly on the support of Washington. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany assured that Trump continues to recognize him as “leader of Venezuela.”
Trump claims that he never objects to meetings. Even so, the mere fact of contemplating this scenario further weakens Guaidó’s speech and makes his environment uncomfortable. The president of the National Assembly is the main leader of the opposition and was popular among his cadres, increasingly harassed by justice, and among the anti-Chavez bases while some expectation of change remained. The possibility of an imminent turnaround was also decisive for the United States, as well as about 60 European and American countries to endorse him as head of state in charge.
But today that horizon, aggravated by the coronavirus health emergency, is increasingly blurred and Guaidó’s approval has plummeted as Trump himself expresses his doubts. His strategy on the substance is the same, although he has always oscillated between pressure to force Maduro’s resignation and start a transition process, and the scarecrow of foreign intervention. To fuel this last hypothesis, Washington’s rhetoric, especially that of the president, his advisers, and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, was decisive.
However, neither the waves of citizen protest have worked for them nor has a military route materialized, beyond some actions derailed by Caracas, such as last May, the previous attempt of maritime incursion with Venezuelan deserters and at least two mercenaries Americans. A crazy plan from which Guaidó has wholly disassociated himself. However, some of his closest collaborators were involved – at least in a first phase – and that ended up hitting his leadership.
The unease generated by this plot in the opposition ranks is enormous. And it is not the first time that a similar climate has been breathed, notably since the forces critical of Chavismo embody an amalgam of sensibilities, including very diverse ideologies. That is why the Maduro government has spent months trying to widen the opposition’s fracture, agreeing with minority sectors, and now it will hold a meeting with Trump as a clear victory.
In Miraflores, many wanted Trump to win in 2016 because they considered his foreign policy less interventionist than his rival, Hillary Clinton and because his unequivocal speech ended up encouraging the Chavista bases. Last year’s tensions, however, made them long for the Barack Obama era. Diplomatic relations are broken, but the Government has always ensured that, beyond the verbal hyperbole on both sides, some communication channels have been maintained.
Almost three months ago, the White House presented a transition project in Venezuela without Maduro or Guaidó that has been left in borage water. If supporters of the former identify the United States since the time of the late former president Hugo Chávez as the main enemy of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution, most opponents have always looked to Washington as hope.
This climate is a reflection of deep polarization and the absolute absence of serenity in the political debate in Venezuela. Guaidó has been branded as a socialist or collaborator of the regime by the most radical sectors of the opposition, which at the same time does not usually accept the criticism of the moderates when interpreting them as an endorsement of the Government. The blockade is getting deeper every day, and no one yet sees a way out of the crisis.