This Saturday, February 23, will be an inflection point in the history of Venezuela. The date marks one month since the United States recognized 35-year-old Juan Guaidó, the country’s legitimate president, over the objections of socialist autocrat Nicholas Maduro and his Cuban, Russian, and Chinese backers. It is also Guaidó’s deadline for Maduro to allow into Venezuela the humanitarian aid amassed at the Colombian border.
Yesterday at a rally in Miami, President Trump warned the Maduro-aligned Venezuelan military not to interfere in the delivery of food and medical supplies.
You cannot hide from the choice that now confronts you,” Trump said. “You can choose to accept President Guaidó’s generous offer of amnesty, to live your life in peace with your families and your countrymen. President Guaidó does not seek retribution against you, and neither do we. But you must not follow Maduro’s orders to block humanitarian aid, and you must not threaten any form of violence against peaceful protesters—opposition leaders, members of the National Assembly, or President Guaidó and his family.
What will happen? “The opposition has so far been quiet about details of its plans,” reports the New York Times, “saying that if they released information Mr. Maduro would stymie them with his security forces.” There are hints that the opposition may adopt an indirect approach, employing smugglers and indigenous tribes to avoid the army. That, however, only raises the additional question of how Guaidó plans to distribute the supplies once they are in Venezuela. And what action Maduro’s forces might take against him then.
Maduro rightly understands that his ability to rule perversely depends on the inability of Guaidó to improve the well-being of the Venezuelan people. If Maduro uses violence, he will put both Guaidó and President Trump in a difficult position. Guaidó will have little recourse. And President Trump, who yesterday said that all options are on the table, will have to decide if he really means it. The best outcome, of course, is that the tyrant will leave voluntarily. History suggests that the best outcome is also the least likely one.
“On the 23rd some people in the regime will have to make a life-defining decision,” Marco Rubio said from Colombia the other day. He was referring to Maduro’s regime. The policy-makers of other regimes, including ours, may be soon forced to make some life-defining decisions of their own.
Something to Consider
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