As Guaido struggles, US sees narrowing path on Venezuela
After a coup attempt in Venezuela quickly fizzled out, the United States is insisting that President Nicolas Maduro's days remain numbered but according to the U.S. media reports Washington may have overestimated the opposition leader's strength and could not manage to trigger high profile defections from the administration.
Juan Guaido, who is recognized as interim president by the United States and more than 50 other countries, on May 1 claimed support from a group of "brave soldiers" at a base in Caracas, but Maduro quashed ensuing street protests within hours.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on May 1 that "military action is possible."
Pompeo dropped a bombshell as the insurrection subsided by saying that Maduro had been ready to fly out to Havana before being dissuaded by Russia, although both Maduro and Moscow denied the account.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Pompeo on May 1 on a phone call that further "aggressive steps" in Venezuela would have grave consequences, Russia's Foreign Ministry said.
The Trump administration publicly named three senior Venezuelan officials including the defense minister who it said had committed to back Guaido, the head of the elected National Assembly. But that was not the case.
Maduro retained control of state institutions and the loyalty of the armed forces, frustrating Guaido's bid to assume the day-to-day functions of government.
According to the Washington Post, several of Maduro’s top military and civilian aides were said to have been persuaded to switch sides, while others would be allowed to leave the country. But on April 30 the plan started to fall apart.
“Trump has shown little willingness to plunge into Venezuela, according to current and former aides. The president has occasionally mused to others that National Security Adviser John Bolton wants to get him into wars,” the newspaper reported.
Also according to the Washington Post, while the Pentagon has developed military options for Trump, it has urged caution in internal discussions regarding the use of force.
The newspaper claimed that the U.S. had knowledge of secret negotiations between Maduro administration and the opposition. “In the last few weeks, it was clear that they were reaching an agreement with Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, along with the head of the Maduro-appointed Supreme Court and the commander of his presidential guard, to switch sides, an official said,” the newspaper wrote.
But according to another newspaper, Wall Street Journal, Padrino switched sides at the very last moment.
Maduro said a European newspaper had reported that President Trump and Bolton had coordinated all operations of the attempted military coup, to supporters on May 1.
Many of the protesters in the capital Caracas had drifted home. National Guards fired tear gas at a hardcore of demonstrators who remained, and one injured demonstrator was carried by others to a first aid truck.
Rights organizations said a young woman died in surgery after being shot in the head during a protest in Caracas.