The legitimate president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, may be able to count the number of days he has left as a free man on one hand. Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s dictator, has warned Guaido that his arrest is imminent.
Pro-Maduro thugs met Guaido at the airport two days ago after he returned from overseas and attacked him, throwing a liquid on him and grabbing at his shirt as he ran the gauntlet.
“We’re in Caracas now. I bring back with me the commitment of the free world, ready to help us regain democracy and freedom,” Guaido wrote on Twitter, before tweeting a picture of himself at passport control that was captioned “HOME.”
Shortly before his arrival, fighting broke out between his followers — including several lawmakers — and Maduro’s supporters.
“Guaido, fascist!” shouted employees of the state-run airline Conviasa, which was subjected to US sanctions last week, who had entered the area where the 36-year-old’s backers were waiting for him. Several diplomats were present.
Guaido attended the state of the union and traveled to Canada and Western Europe, picking up international support for his quest to claim his rightful position as president. But Maduro is firmly hanging on to power as the radical socialists who run the unions and the army continue to support him.
Maduro is dangling Guaido’s arrest, teasing his opponent and making it clear he could pull the trigger on his incarceration at any time.
Maduro said Friday that Guaidó will be jailed the day Venezuela’s justice system decides he should be imprisoned “for all the crimes he’s committed.”
“That day hasn’t come yet,” he said in response to a question from The Associated Press. “But it will come.”
Yet analysts and opponents of Maduro say Venezuela’s judicial system cannot be seen as independent from the executive branch and that it effectively acts as an arm of state power.
Maduro has two very important international friends: Russia and China. Putin and Xi’s support has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with checkmating U.S. influence in the region. They see Maduro as a bastion of anti-Americanism around which other far-left Latin American leaders can rally. As long as he has those two powers on his side, he probably isn’t going anywhere.
Guaido is marginally pro-American, but he’s pro-business and, with a lot of international help, he could revive the Venezuelan economy — especially its faltering oil industry. Maduro fears a Venezuelan revival not directed by him and his Chavistas. He knows it would finish them in any fair election, which is why he’s hanging on to power so fiercely.
The sad fact is, Maduro has the guns and the army. Until that dynamic changes, the Venezuelan people don’t have much hope.