How a spontaneous uprising against Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuelan dictatorship failed – from John Bolton’s book

During the Trump administration there was an uprising in Venezuela that failed. The U.S. tried to help and the story is in John Bolton’s book “The Room Where It Happened”.

“Nicolas Maduro’s autocratic regime was a threat due to its Cuba connection and the openings it afforded Russia, China, and Iran. …Moscow [had] expended substantial resources to buttress Maduro, dominate Venezuela’s oil and gas industry and impose costs on the US. Beijing was not far behind.”

Trump was considering a military option against Venezuela, but Bolton dissented: “I explained why military force was not the answer, especially given the inevitable congressional opposition.”

Bolton, who laments Trump’s propensity to change his mind often, also writes: “…Of course, Trump also periodically said that he wanted to meet with Maduro to resolve all our problems with Venezuela, which neither Pompeo nor I thought was a good idea. “

The Venezuelan liberation movement that the U.S. tried to help started when:

“The new young president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, announced at a huge rally in Caracas that the Assembly believed Maduro’s manifestly fraudulent 2018 reelection was illegitimate, and therefore invalid.”

Its interesting now to note that Trump claims the U.S. election that defeated him (Trump) was fraudulent and therefore invalid, and John Bolton disagreed with Trump on that accusation. In response to that and other criticism by Bolton, Trump said his former national security adviser (Bolton) was a “dope,” and that Bolton’s advice always boiled down to “Gee, let’s go to war.”

At least in the case of Venezuela, this was not true, Bolton was against going to war.

The Russians themselves were not averse to using force for their interests, and Russian paramilitaries reportedly were arriving to protect Maduro.

To give you an idea of what Maduro’s regime was (and is) like: “Maduro’s secret police broke into Guaido’s home and threatened his wife and young daughter.”

But there were intermediate steps the U.S. could have taken and did not:

Bolton writes:

“Consistent with his public threats of a “full and complete embargo” on Cuba because of the oil shipments between Venezeula and Cuba, Trump also repeatedly asked the Defense Department for concrete options on how to stop such shipments, including interdiction.
Although military force inside Venezuela was a nonstarter, using force to slice Cuba’s oil lifeline could have been dramatic. The Pentagon did nothing.”

“In the meantime in late March, Russia sent in new troops and equipment, labelling one shipment as humanitarian, and trying to obfuscate what its presence amounted to. There were strong indications more were coming…”

“An unnecessary negative development, says Bolton, was Trump’s decision to call Putin…Putin said our support for Guaido had consolidated support for Maduro. ..” Bolton notes that he thought Putin largely persuaded Trump.

In one chapter Bolton tells the story of the uprising, the rallies of freedom lovers in Venezuela, the defectors from the regime, but in the end, it all failed. Why?

At the end of the chapter, Bolton gives his reasons:

“At the end of that last day in April 2019, two decades off mutual mistrust, cowardice on the part of several regime leaders who had committed to act but who lost their nerve at the critical moment; some tactical mistakes by the inexperienced Opposition; the absence of any US advisors on the ground who might and I underline “might,” have helped make a difference; and the cold cynical pressure of the Cubans and the Russians, brought the attempted uprising to a halt the day it started…
But make no mistake: this rebellion came very close to succeeding. “

On reading this chapter, I’m not convinced by Bolton. “Close to succeeding” is still not succeeding. Maybe if there had been American military presence more people would have taken the risk to defect. If you were a military person in Venezuela, you had to do a cost-benefit analysis. You saw the Cubans, the Russians, and the Iranians in your country, you assumed that Maduro’s military was mostly loyal to him, and you would take a big risk in opposing Maduro. American (or other forces) were nowhere to be seen. So I’m not surprised the uprising failed. Bolton says that one day Venezuela will be free. But if we look at Cuba’s own regime, it outlasted all the presidents from John Kennedy to now, and it shows no sign of going away. Venezuela, in my view, may stay a dictatorship for a very long time.

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