The Venezuela problem has not gone away, despite Putin stepping in to prop up President Nicolas Maduro. A few weeks ago I mentioned that Putin was now running the timetable in Caracas, and that Trump would agree to whatever plan Putin came up with for the country.
What's Trump going to do, exactly? At this point Trump has trashed NATO so hard that they're not going to lift a finger to help the US in Caracas. No, Putin is holding all the cards here, and all of them have Donald Trump's big dumb orange face on them.
No, I was dead wrong about Trump and John Bolton invading Venezuela. I freely admit that. That ship has sailed.
But brother, the reality is going to be much worse.
Today we saw the beginning of that plan in action as opposition leader Juan Guiado all but declared a coup and the "final phase" of the uprising against Maduro.
Violent clashes erupted across Venezuela on Tuesday after opposition leader Juan Guaidó launched what appeared to be a military-backed challenge to President Nicolás Maduro, summoning thousands of people to the streets to demonstrate against the socialist leader.
It was a high-risk gamble for Guaidó, the leader of the National Assembly who declared himself interim president in January. And by late Tuesday, it was unclear whether it would succeed.
Dozens of people were injured by rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition in melees across Venezuela, according to local observers and hospital officials. An armored vehicle ran into a cluster of Guaidó supporters. A group of hooded men in a pro-government militia — the feared colectivos — fired live ammunition into a crowd of protesters, witnesses said. And a colonel loyal to Maduro was shot in the neck, the defense minister said, but the extent of his injuries was unclear.
President Trump accused Cuban “troops and militia” of conducting military operations in Venezuela to cause “death and destruction to the Constitution of Venezuela.” If the alleged activities didn’t immediately stop, Trump tweeted, his administration would impose a “full and complete embargo, together with the highest-level sanctions” on Cuba.
There were protests across the nation, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Conflicts, with violent clashes in at least five states. At least 25 people were detained Tuesday, according to Foro Penal, a local organization that tracks political detentions.
Guaidó opened the day with a surprise appearance at a military base in eastern Caracas, where he was surrounded by armed men in military uniforms. He urged other troops to join what he called the final stage of “Operation Liberty” to force Maduro from power.
“People of Venezuela, the end of usurpation has arrived,” Guaidó said. “At this moment, I am with the main military units of our armed forces, starting the final phase of Operation Liberty. People of Venezuela, we will go to the street with the armed forces to continue taking the streets until we consolidate the end of usurpation, which is already irreversible.”
Two observations: First, The Zandar Coup Rule finds Maduro with zero for five. It's all a puppet show, and Putin is pulling both Trump and Guaido's strings.
Second, now, where did Cuba come into all this? It's not Cuban troops that in Venezuela, it's Russian troops. But Russia has to be the bad guy somehow, right?
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed Tuesday that embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro was preparing to leave the country for Cuba, but was talked out of it by Russia.
"We've watched throughout the day, it's been a long time since anyone's seen Maduro," Pompeo said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room."
"He had an airplane on the tarmac, he was ready to leave this morning as we understand it and the Russians indicated he should stay."
"He was headed for Havana," Pompeo said.
All this is very interesting. We're seeing the opening act of a Broadway play here for American consumption. Putin knows Trump needs a major distraction to save him from House Democrats, and Putin has to help out his puppet. The result: a coup made for TV.
Stay tuned, true believers.