Meanwhile in Venezuela, kinda maybe President Nicolas Maduro and kinda maybe President Juan Guiado are facing off in the arena of public opinion as Maduro is calling for new parliamentary elections while protests against his regime grow daily in the streets.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro proposed early parliamentary elections on Saturday, seeking to shore up his crumbling rule after a senior general defected to the opposition and tens of thousands thronged the streets in protest at his government.
As domestic and international pressure on Maduro to step down mounts, a senior air force general disavowed him in a video that circulated earlier on Saturday, expressing his allegiance to parliament head and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido.
The military’s support is crucial for Maduro, who is deeply unpopular, largely due to an unprecedented economic crisis that has prompted an exodus of millions. Maduro claims he is victim of a coup directed by the United States.
In a speech to supporters, Maduro said the powerful government-controlled Constituent Assembly would debate calling elections this year for the National Assembly parliament, which is opposition-controlled.
Guaido has called for a new, fair presidential election after the disputed vote won by Maduro last year.
“You want elections? You want early elections? We are going to have parliamentary elections,” Maduro told a pro-government rally in Caracas, held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez’s first inauguration as president.
Opposition lawmaker Armando Armas said in a statement that proposing bringing forward the parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for 2020, was just another act of provocation.
“Maduro is not president and the Constituent Assembly has no legitimacy, no value,” he said.
Unfortunately, plenty of Democrats are also behind the idea of regime change in Venezuela, none more invested than the number two Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin.
It is impossible to overstate the gravity of the situation now facing the people of Venezuela: children fainting at school from malnutrition; even basic medicines unavailable; the return of deadly disease; rampant corruption; and the mass exodus of anyone able-bodied. But the collapse of Venezuela goes way beyond a political challenge.
Last April, I attended a secret dinner held in a private room above a Caracas neighborhood restaurant. The five members of the Venezuelan National Assembly gathered there had been elected as part of a new majority in opposition to the Maduro regime. Nicolas Maduro responded by trying to disband the National Assembly, change the constitution, and create a sham parallel body filled with his loyal supporters.
These five, all in their 30s and despite, in several cases, having been elected in areas that favor the former socialist President Hugo Chávez, were marked as opponents of the regime. They were very open about their fate.
They collectively and ominously warned that if Maduro proceeded with the rigged election and I returned the next year, I would not find them there. They said it was likely that two would be jailed, two exiled and one would just disappear. They had seen firsthand how the Maduro regime treated its opponents. Their stark comments were a grim reminder that political contests in many countries can turn deadly.
There's an extremely good chance that the US military will be involved in ousting Maduro from power, and that the closer Trump gets to his own reckoning, the sooner the bullets start flying in Caracas.
When it does, Trump will undoubtedly have the blessing of both parties.