Venezuela Coup Attempt Underway

Breaking News out of Latin America

AP Breaking:

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.

“I want to tell the Venezuelan people: This is the moment to take to the streets and accompany these patriotic soldiers,” said Lopez, who had been detained since 2014 for leading anti-government protests.

“Everyone should come to the streets, in peace.”

Lopez said he has been freed from house arrest by members of the security forces responding to an order by Guaidó, whom the U.S. and dozens of other governments recognize as Venezuela’s rightful leader.
As he spoke on a highway overpass, troops loyal to Maduro sporadically fired tear gas from inside the adjacent Carlota air base as the crowd of a few hundred civilians, some of them brandishing Venezuelan flags, scurried for cover.

The crowd swelled to a few thousand as people sensed what could be their strongest opportunity yet to overthrow the government after months of turmoil that has seen Maduro withstand an onslaught of protests and international pressure with the support of his top military command and allies such as Russia and Cuba.

“It’s now or never,” said one of the young rebellious soldiers, his face covered in the blue bandanna preferred by the few dozen soldiers who stood alongside Guaidó and Lopez.

The dramatic events playing out in the opposition’s stronghold in wealthier eastern Caracas appeared not to have triggered a broader military revolt.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino on Twitter rejected what he called an attempt by a “subversive movement” to generate “panic and terror.” Meanwhile, socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello said most of Caracas was calm and called on government supporters to amass at the presidential palace to defend Maduro from what he said was a U.S.-backed coup attempt.

—“Venezuela’s Guaido takes to streets in military uprising

It’s too early to assess the prospects of success or the wider implications. We’ll certainly keep an eye on the story.

Update (Doug Mataconis): National Security Adviser John Bolton tweeted this earlier this morning:

As I have said in the past, the worst thing for any effort to remove Maduro by force would be if it seemed as if it were being engineered by the United States. That’s exactly what Bolton’s tweet does, in my opinion. Expect Maduro to cite this as well as recent comments by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida in support of his likely argument that the coup attempt is an American plot.

Update #2 (Doug Mataconis): Further updates and commentary about the manner in which the Administration, Congressional Republicans, and some Congressional Democrats are responding to all of this

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. So far the military has remained loyal to Maduro except for a few rebellious units. If that holds up this time then things could fall apart quickly just as they have in the past.

  2. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Without most of the military on the side of a coup, the best one can expect is civil war.

    Inevitably I wonder how much the US is responsible for the coup or the timing. Lots f people in the region will wonder as well.

    Also, oil may go up.

  3. Robert C says:

    US probably behind this…any excuse to grab our…err Venezuela’s oil.

  4. @Kathy:

    See my update. The Trump Administration appears to be playing into Maduro’s hands.

  5. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Remember the fable of the turtle and the scorpion? Why does the Trump administration act so incompetently? “It’s my nature.”

    But all the mockery of Trump, well-deserved though it be, won’t help the people of Venezuela. So I hope they have a majority of the army with them, otherwise they’ve just secured Maduro’s rule for many years.

  6. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Yup. Venezuelan newspapers are far less optimistic about the coup than English media is.

  7. Teve says:

    @Kathy: it’s been a long time since I read this so it would take me an hour to find the source, but I remember some economist saying that it was basically an accepted fact now that 18 months after any kind of oil shock there is a recession.

  8. Teve says:

    This is weird, I’m not seeing anything on Twitter about this. I’m sure it’s trending, I can see it’s trending on Google, but I follow a lot of political journalists, and nobody’s talking about this. that’s unusual, usually they’re talking about it a few hours before a big story breaks.

  9. Richard Gardner says:

    Related take/tweet by Organization of American States:
    OAS ✔ @OAS_official – @Almagro_OEA2015: We welcome the adhesion of military of #Venezuela to the Constitution and to Interim President @jguaido. It’s necessary the fullest support for the democratic transition in a peaceful manner. #OEAconVzla

    Today OAS is having a special meeting on “The role of external actors in Venezuela” – presenters are mostly from Columbia

    “Supporters of Maduro attended the demonstration in the Venezuelan capital to denounce the 35-member OAS, whose council voted this month to recognize an envoy selected by opposition leader Juan Guaidó. A minority of countries voted against the resolution.” (18 votes yes, 6 abstentions, “9 votes against (Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Grenada, Mexico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela)”

  10. Gustopher says:

    I’m honestly surprised that this hasn’t already erupted into massive violence and a civil war, or with Maduro just having Guaidó killed.

    I’d say I’m hopeful, but I’m really not. But maybe they will continue to surprise me.

  11. mattbernius says:

    A really great twitter thread on how poorly executed this coup* is:

    Naunihal Singh

    Some thoughts about what happened in Venezuela earlier. First, DISCLAIMER I speak only for myself and not my employer. I have no knowledge of what the USG is doing here. TLDR: Either this was a really crappy coup attempt or Guaidó is trying to do something else. (1)

    Part 1: *If this was a coup attempt it was very poorly handled*
    A coup attempt succeeds when the challenger makes it appear that his victory is a fait accompli. This creates a self-fulfilling dynamic. By convincing people the coup will succeed, it does so (2)

    This is what game theorists call a coordination game. Actors most of all want to avoid a lack of coordination which might lead to a civil war. They also want to avoid being on the losing side. Therefore, they try to back the side everybody else will back (3)

    The coordination dynamic creates a point of leverage for coup makers. If they can convince other military actors that the coup will succeed, they can obtain the support necessary to succeed (and deflate resistance without fighting it) (4)

    There are various ingredients to what I call “making a fact” One of them involves seizing the TV/Radio station and making a credible broadcast. Guaidó did none of this. He tweeted out his message & his video lacked any heavy military actors in it. (5)

    A tweet cannot work as a substitute for a broadcast because members of the military will have no idea if others have seen the tweet. You can be sure they don’t follow Guaidó on twitter (that might get them arrested), and I have no idea how many were on twitter at all. (6)

    So even if one colonel wanted to join in the coup, he’s not going to do so alone, and he has no idea if others have seen it and if they’re going to join in, etc. Also, that video did a lousy job of convincing viewers that Guaidó had much military support.

    That location is a minor air strip, not even a major air force base, and definitely not a major army base. And, as became clear pretty soon, it’s not even clear that Guaidó has the loyalty of the men at that base. (8)

    A credible broadcast would have shown the faces of key commanders, or perhaps even let them talk directly to the camera. None of that happened. The impression was that Guaidó had a few enlisted men on his side. And sure enough, that seems to have been the case (9)

    The coup was clearly DOA. Why did Guaidó do it then? Here I speculate BASED ON NO INFORMATION. One theory is that he was encouraged by allies in the USA who couldn’t cash the check they wrote (metaphorically) but who said that a coup attempt would be supported inside&outside (10)

    Another is that Guaidó simply had no idea how a coup worked and was naive and played a very weak hand very badly. Either of these are possible. (11)

    But more interesting is the idea that he might have been trying to achieve a different goal. Perhaps Guaidó believed that his action would produce an outpouring of civilian support which would then lead to Maduro ordering a crackdown on large numbers of citizens (12)


    [Hat Tip to D. Larison for amplifying this]

    * – Of course John Bolton doesn’t think this is a coup because the US supports Guaido.