With the support of President Donald Trump’s administration, Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido attempted to force yet another violent confrontation that would help the opposition remove Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro from power.
Guaido appeared in a video with a “group of heavily armed national guardsmen.” He urged citizens to join these soldiers in “Operation Freedom.”
Standing by Guaido, who proclaimed himself president in January, was Leopoldo Lopez, a personal mentor. Apparently, security forces freed Lopez from house arrest. He was arrested on charges of arson, public incitement, and conspiracy that stemmed from his involvement in violence during a coup attempt in 2014.
The renewed call for rebellion led a group of opposition activists to storm the gates of the La Carlota military base in Caracas. They reportedly hurled Molotov cocktails and stones but were unable to take over the base.
Venezuelan security forces responded with tanks to disperse the opposition, and footage was broadcast on CNN as “graphic” video that showed the brutality of Maduro’s government. But the very short clip did not show what led tanks to be deployed in the first place.
Steffano Pozzebon, a correspondent in Venezuela reporting for CNN, said the developments represented a “new stage of confrontation” for the opposition. “Because we have witnessed, together with our colleagues, the live ammunition was fired on both sides.”
“Here I have in my hand some of the live ammunition that was fired in the streets of Caracas earlier today, shot from an AR-15 that the opposition—the members of the military switched sides and joined the opposition.”
“We’re seeing armed confrontation,” Pozzebon added. “Which is a new development here in Venezuela and military men standing side by side with opposition.”
Yet, this type of action by the opposition to provoke confrontation has happened previously and thus far failed to inspire the kind of popular support necessary to take control of Venezuela and complete the slow-motion coup in progress for three months.
On February 23, the Trump administration, with the support of Latin American governments in Brazil, Colombia, and Chile, attempted to force the delivery of “humanitarian aid.”
Three border bridges were targeted. Opposition activists threw Molotov cocktails toward trucks that were reportedly carrying aid. They went up in flames, and U.S. officials, along with the opposition, immediately spread propaganda suggesting Maduro had set fire to them.
“What kind of a sick tyrant stops food from getting to hungry people? The images of burning trucks filled with aid are sickening,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared.
But on March 9 the New York Times documented how the Trump administration and anti-Maduro protesters, with the help of journalists, spread a lie that carried huge propaganda value.
Chilean photographer Nicole Kramm was severely injured on February 23 when a Venezuela tank was hijacked by two individuals. The individuals exited the tank and were welcomed by leaders of the opposition.
Like the action on April 30, Guaido urged members of the Venezuela armed forces to defect. It was a main objective of the opposition. Yet, only a few dozen defected from a military that consists of around 230,000 people.
Guaido issued an “ultimatum” on February 20 to Venezuela military forces to end their support for Maduro. The country’s armed forces shrugged off this empty threat.
In early February, Reuters reported the Trump administration was “holding direct communications with members of Venezuela’s military urging them to abandon President Nicolas Maduro.” However, in the same report, Reuters quoted a source that suggested the Trump administration failed to lay enough “groundwork to spur a wider mutiny in the ranks.”
It very clearly indicated the Trump administration would have to bribe military members to win their support.
Guaido claimed he held “clandestine meetings with members of the armed forces and the security forces” in an opinion editorial published by the New York Times at the end of January. He made it clear the “military’s withdrawal of support” was “crucial to enabling a change in government.”
On Twitter, as “Operation Freedom” fizzled, Trump national security adviser John Bolton bullied Venezuela military officials. “Your time is up. This is your last chance. Accept Interim President Guaido’s amnesty, protect the Constitution, and remove Maduro, and we will take you off our sanctions list. Stay with Maduro, and go down with the ship.”
Nonetheless, no matter how many overtures Guaido has made to the military, including on days of action designed to provoke confrontation, the military has been unwilling to transfer their support to him.
In January, Elliott Abrams was appointed U.S. special envoy for Venezuela. He spoke about pushing Venezuela military officers to defy Maduro.
“Our hope is that they will be able to persuade Maduro, or they will simply disobey orders to continue the starvation of the people of Venezuela,” Abrams stated.
Abrams ordered planes carrying “humanitarian aid” to shuttle weapons to the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s when he was working for the State Department under President Ronald Reagan’s administration.
In preparation for “Operation Freedom” on April 30, Abrams delivered a speech for the Atlantic Council, a think tank that fully backs Trump’s regime change agenda in Venezuela.
Some of his remarks were featured in an “Operation Freedom” video produced by Share America, a State Department public relations initiative that creates propaganda to build support for the United States.
“The current state of affairs is not normal for Venezuela,” Abrams declared. “It is not acceptable for Venezuelans. I’m absolutely convinced it is not Venezuela’s destiny. The nation’s history reminds us of the tremendous potential Venezuela has and the country it will be when it escapes the current disaster.”
“Just imagine a Venezuela where you can pay for dinner with the Bolivares you have in your pocket,” Abrams added. “Imagine a Venezuela where there are no blackouts and clean water pours out of the tap. Imagine a Venezuela without preventable and debilitating diseases.”
The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, which Abrams referenced, intensified dramatically in the past months because of the Trump administration’s policy of imposing crippling sanctions.
A recent report from the Center for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR) showed the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration were responsible for 40,000 deaths from 2017 to 2018.
“The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports,” said Mark Weisbrot, CEPR director and co-author of the report.
New financial and trade sanctions imposed an effective embargo that made it even harder to import medicines. It exacerbated economic depression and hyperinflation, and tens of thousands of additional preventable deaths are expected to occur in the coming months.
According to CEPR, “an estimated 80,000 people with HIV” have not had antiretroviral treatment since 2017. Sixteen thousand people need dialysis. Sixteen thousand people have cancer. Four million have diabetes and hypertension and are unable to obtain the insulin or cardiovascular medicine necessary for treatment.
“Venezuela’s economic crisis is routinely blamed all on Venezuela,” said Jeffrey Sachs, another coauthor of the report. “But it is much more than that. American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela’s economy and thereby lead to regime change. It’s a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.”
So, as Guaido and the opposition misleads or outright lies about the momentum their coup efforts enjoy in the Venezuela military, as the Trump administration continues to destabilize the country further through provocations, many Venezuelans will die.