Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Why there will not be a coup in Venezuela now?

 Because, there is no American embassy in Caracas now. 

According to a statement attributed to former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, there is no coup in US because there is no American embassy in Washington DC.

In 2002, when there was a coup in which President Chavez was overthrown, there was American embassy in Caracas. Not only that. The office of the US Defence Attache was located within the Venezuelan military headquarters. After the coup, Chavez threw them out. 

Today 11 April is the anniversary of the 2002 Coup. 

I was in Caracas as Indian ambassador on 11 April 2002. Before the coup, there were demonstrations in front of the embassy and the residence of the ambassador when a few free lance Indian technicians were hired by PDVSA to run some essential technical operations. The Venezuelans wrote on the walls of the embassy, " How can the country of Gandhi support Chavez's dictatorship". But when I told the demonstrators that the technicians were not sent by the Indian government and that they were recruited by PDVSA directly through their own channels, the crowd dispersed peacefully.

The coup succeeded because the opposition and the Big brother were able to persuade some Generals to change sides. Before that, the pro-opposition and pro-US oil company (PDVSA) executives went on a strike stopping the production and exports of oil and prepared the ground for the coup. The generals who ditched Chavez were promised share in the power, amnesty to collaborators and an orderly transition. But as soon as Pedro Carmona, the US-backed businessman took over as interim President, he abolished the constituition, dissolved the legimately elected assembly and unleashed persecution of Chavistas. Carmona went back on the promise of sharing power to the military. This made the generals angry and they were afraid of mistreatment by the new regime. So, the Generals brought Chavez back in 48 hours and detained Carmona. It was all over in two days.

Initially, Chavez was repentant, introspective and even forgiving. But the opposition, having failed to unseat Chavez democratically or otherwise, went back to their Northern Patron and continued their conspiracies. Chavez wanted to teach a lesson to those oligarchic political and business leaders as well as the PDVSA executives and middle class which supported them. He sacked 15000 employees of PDVSA and filled the company with Chavistas who were incompetent and corrupt. He started systematic and ruthless destruction of the business, industry, economy and the society. When he died in Havana, the Cubans advised him to nominate Maduro as his successor. Maduro does not have the smartness, grassroot support, charisma and leadership quality. The Cubans preferred the manageable and incompetent Maduro over the clever Diosdado Cabello, the strongest leader after Chavez even now. 

The only point of interest for Indians is that Maduro is a Sai Baba follower. He has been to Puttaparthi a few times. 

Maduro is not running the country like Chavez, Saddam Hussain, Qaddafi or Noriega. He is just a figure head. The country is run by a collective of Chavistas and Military people. Most of them are corrupt. They realise that they would be punished if the opposition comes to power. They remember the 2002 experience. The only way to get them out of power is to offer general amnesty to all of them (several thousands) in the same way as Pinochet and the military dictatorship in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay got away with their atrocious crimes against their own people. The crimes of Maduro regime are much smaller in comparison to what the Chilean, Argentine and Brazilian dictators did.

If the US invades, the armed Chavistas and many military people will put up a fierce fight and cause bloodshed including those of the invaders. Even if Maduro is kidnapped from his palace as done in the case of Noriega, the others will fight. That’s why the Iraq, Libya and Panama model of regime change will not work in Venezuela.

Yesterday, the US Vice President Mike Pence spoke in the UN Security Council seeking UN recognition of Guaido and derecognition of Maduro. This is a clear indication that the US has not been able to do the regime change unilaterally or with its 'coalition of the willing'. US goes to UN only when it realises its limitation.

The attempt of US to get UN recognition of Guaido will fail because China and Russia will veto in UNSC in favour of Venezuela. And in the UN general Assembly, not many countries will support Guaido.

And there was Raul Castro who addressed the same UNSC meeting asking US to keep its hands off Venezuela. It is a powerful message from a country which has survived US invasion, many CIA plots and odious sanctions. In fact it is the Cubans who have been advising Maduro how to survive, based on their own remarkable and courageous experience.

Despite all the bravado of Trump, Marco Rubio and Elliot Abrams who threatened even military invasion, Guaido remains as the paper president while Maduro has checkmated him and his external supporters.

China made a mockery of Guaido recognition by InterAmerican development bank by refusing visa for Guaido nominee to IADB. OAS has given recognition because of the secretary general Luis Almagro, the Uruguayan who has sold his soul to Uncle Sam and has been taking blatantly partisan approach to Maduro regime. The Uruguayan government has disowned him. although he was a respected foreign minister during the government of President Mujica.

Putin's despatch of military advisors to Venezuela has emboldened the Maduro regime and surprised the US, complicating the American calculations.

But the US can strangle the Venezuelan economy and worsen the misery for the government and people by its ongoing and future sanctions on oil production and exports as well as other clandestine sabotage. The Maduro regime has no clues as to how to stop the hyper inflation (running in 5-6 digits), increase oil production and exports, stabilise the exchange rate and reset the economy. Those around Maduro are intensifying their stealing government money left and right, since they do not know how long the regime would last.

The only solution is to bring Maduro and the Opposition to the negotiating table and put pressure on them to reach an agreement for holding an internationally supervised election. Mexico and Uruguay advocate this course. But Maduro will come to the table only after iron-clad amnesty to all the military and Chavistas.

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