The Day Maduro Almost Fallen: The Inside Story of Venezuela’s Failed Uprising
Before dawn on April 30, 2019, Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López – US-backed interim president of Venezuela and, until this morning, the country’s most prominent political prisoner – gathered and declared the end of the regime of Nicolás Maduro. According to US officials, a plane was waiting on the tarmac to escort Maduro to Cuba. Receive market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.Two years later, Guaidó’s star has fallen, López is in exile and Maduro remains in Miraflores Palace.Axios spoke to key figures in the effort to oust Maduro and the witnessing the day’s events to examine what went wrong and “It’s now or never” John Bolton’s day began with a 5:25 am phone call from Secretary of State Mike Pompe. By that time, it was clear to both officials that “it was the day,” Bolton told Axios. For the first time in his tenure as national security adviser, Bolton woke up Donald Trump. He relayed the message that Guaidó was implementing his plan to divide the regime and oust Maduro in action, and that the day could end with either of the Venezuelan leaders jailed. “I saw on social networks that Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López were together,” says Carlos Sandoval, writer and professor of literature at the Central University of Venezuela. “Guaidó said he was in the Carlota, which is an air force base located in the city center, essentially, “Sandoval said.” He said it was part of the process of liberating the country. That the people had to be on the streets and, well, the people answered that call. “” When I woke up I saw that this guy (López) was out, I said, ‘What the hell is going on?’ “remembers Francisco Santos, the Colombian ambassador to the United States, who had coordinated closely with the White House and the Guaidó team in the run-up to April 30. After being assured that” everything was linked ” and that Maduro’s inner circle was about to give up on him, Santos thought, “Wow. They’re going to pull it off. Now we have a whole different ball game. Leopoldo López (R) stands alongside Guaidó in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez / AFP via Getty Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó’s ambassador to Washington, was in regular contact with Guaidó and others on the ground. Most importantly, he remembers the wait: “I expected some events that we negotiated with some people inside the regime. I was just waiting for this moment [to come]“We talked to everyone and never got a no from anyone,” he told Axios. “We spoke to everyone and never received a no from anyone,” a source who coordinated the opposition and the regime before April 30 told Axios. the court and the armed forces – Maikel Moreno and Vladimir Padrino, respectively – and other members of Maduro’s inner circle, who had been offered protections if Maduro lost power, and all appeared ready to play their part – or at least to get off the ship when Maduro’s downfall was imminent The first domino fell when the head of the secret police, Christopher Figuera, facilitated López’s escape from house arrest. Moreno was to pass next, declaring Maduro illegitimate and elevating the National Assembly. Padrino would then publicly align the military with the Supreme Court ruling. The public and the grassroots army, among which Maduro was widely hated, would rally behind Guaidó. The vise would close quickly enough that there was no way out. The era of the two presidents – which began in January with a declaration that Maduro was a “usurper” and Speaker of the National Assembly Guaidó the rightful leader – would be over. “Time is against you with something like this,” Santos says. “After four or five hours of nothing happening, I said, ‘uh oh. I think it is not. National Guard troops loyal to Maduro arrive at the scene. Photo: Yuri Cortez / AFP via Getty “When I was outside, near my home, the first thing I encountered was a National Guard officer shooting at people gathering in the street,” Sandoval says . colectivo, “or left-wing paramilitary group, arrived and started shooting. This all happened just outside a police station.” The first thing you think of is: ‘Wait, Juan Guaidó Said that there was something going on, that things were happening, so how come the police can’t do it? ‘ … You realize it’s the same old story as usual. “” When it started to look grim was when we heard that Maduro had been taken to Fort Tiuna and the Russians and Cubans were there and they were digging, “Bolton mused. “They weren’t going to let him go, that’s for sure. In the early afternoon, as the situation “took a dip”, Bolton emerged outside the White House and shocked international media by saying that Padrino, Moreno and Iván Hernández Dala, the head of the presidential guard, had all conspired against Maduro. “I just wanted everyone to be sure we knew what was going on. That we knew that people from the Maduro regime were involved in this plot, ”Bolton said. John Bolton briefs the press. Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Four protesters had been killed and more than 200 injured. “At noon I knew this is just another episode in a long novel that still has no end. We don’t know when this will end, maybe I’ll die and miss the end. Carlos Sandoval, writer and professor of literature What has gone wrong Regime insiders have never fully trusted the promises of the opposition, the army has never been on the winning side. If Maduro had fired the military leaders who were plotting behind his back, the source said, the military could have turned against him. Instead, he assured them. One by one, the highest personalities of the regime took their places alongside Maduro. The next morning, Padrino was on state television, smiling alongside his Commander-in-Chief. “We got very close,” said Guaido, asked by Axios to Reflect on April 30. “And we are on the verge of making a transition.” “The most important part of what April 30 represents,” he told the Hudson Institute last week, is that the military will play a central role in any transition. Even those close to the effort to oust Ma duro remains uncertain whether the alleged coverings overtook them, hedged their bets, or simply got cold feet. “We underestimated Maduro’s ability to penetrate information and things like that,” Santos says. For Vecchio, the opposition “underestimated the true nature of the regime … the criminal organization in power”. Nicolás Maduro alongside Vladimir Padrino during his inauguration. Photo: Juan Barreto / AFP via GettyBolton, in part blames Trump. He says the president was ready to side with Guaidó one moment and abandon him the next – as Bolton felt that the overthrow of Maduro had to be accomplished quickly, before Trump abandoned the cause altogether. “I think that definitely hurts the chances of success,” Bolton said. And after the April 30 failure, Trump “didn’t want anything to do with it.” The Consequences “From that day forward, I felt cheated,” says Sandoval. “I felt like I was just another one of the group, another Venezuelan who mistakenly believed in the opposition,” says Sandoval. . “Now for someone to convince me to go to a march, to listen to a politician, it’s almost impossible. You can’t even pay me to do this because I don’t. Don’t believe anymore. nothing. “Suffering in Venezuela intensified in the months following April 30, even as the eyes of the world shifted widely. The migrant crisis has accelerated. Five million Venezuelans now live there. outside the country, including about 2 million across the Colombian border. “The musicality of Bogotá has changed,” says Santos, due to the number of Venezuelan accents. According to one estimate, 96% of those who remain in the country live in poverty. “I think that after April 30, Venezuelans became lethargi ques and that feeling doesn’t seem to have an end date, ”says Sandoval. We are living in a situation that with inflation, with the pandemic, with quarantine, the situation has become much more difficult because we are trying not to die of COVID or trying not to starve. Venezuelans enter Colombia. Photo: Schneyder Mendoza / AFP via Getty What to do now? Guaidó is trying to keep the fight alive and regenerate the internal momentum and global attention that was so palpable two years ago. ” We have created a rift inside the regime, and Maduro knows it. “Says Vecchio.” He cannot trust the people around him. And at any time, we can open that door for a change in the Venezuela. “That is,” he said, “if the opposition remains united, and the United States and its allies coordinate an effective strategy to pressure Maduro while also providing humanitarian assistance. So far, the attention of the Biden administration has been elsewhere – the pandemic, China, Russia, the deal with Iran. A review of Venezuela’s policy is underway. The administration continues to recognize Guaidó and label Maduro a “dictator”. A spokesperson for the department’s Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs told Axios that the United States will work to help “end the humanitarian crises in Venezuela through practical and effective international cooperation,” while fighting “transnational crime and criminal networks emanating from Venezuela”. I don’t think things will change politically anytime soon. I don’t see it “, says Sandoval.” As an optimist, I will continue to work, I will continue to help my students. They cannot leave the country, but they can try to find their way. “” I hope my optimism will find a way. “Love this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.