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As the standoff over transition of power in Venezuela continues at least 50 countries including the U.S. have thrown their support behind Juan Guaidó whose recent calls for military support and for mass demonstrations have not been successful. Columbia University’s Christopher Sabatini joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the power struggle, Russia's role and the U.S. government response.
For more on the situation in Venezuela, the role of Russia and the U.S. and how other countries in the region are responding, we're joined now by Christopher Sabatini, an adjunct professor at Columbia University and editor of the online publication, 'Global American.'
So regime change is not easy, calling on your supporters to go out and try to convince the military that standing in your way to drop their weapons and join you. That's what Juan Guaidó was trying all week. Didn't work?
Didn't work. And in large part of that is because this military in its officer class is deeply tied to Maduro. It's deeply tied to corrupt networks, to narcotics trafficking. You know, if this regime falls, many of them face prison and possible extradition. So, they're tied — not out of any personal loyalty or any sort of ideological loyalty to Maduro they're tied to him because they're part of this larger narco state that has emerged in Venezuela and so getting them to flip is not going to be easy. And on top of that you do have Cuban and Russian advisers in there who are backing them and advising them. So it was a risky gamble and it certainly didn't pay off.
Was there a miscalculation on the part of U.S. intelligence to think about the strength of Juan Guaidó's support?
Well there are two theories on this. One is that maybe this was all staged by Cuban intelligence interests and the Russians to basically flush out who were disloyal, the slow elements within the mother of governments. It was all a setup. And some people are saying that. And that's really part and parcel of what Cuba has done within its own country for decades now.
There's also this idea that basically Guaidó may have overplayed his hand that this this desire to see regime change as one former administration official put it, hope is not a strategy but that's really all they had in this sense that well, these negotiations are ongoing, this time it will work. It's been three times now that Guaidó has called people to the streets, called for the military to defect or flip against Maduro and it hasn't worked. And he's dealing with less and less political capital each time he does this.
Just this week we had a call between Vladimir Putin of Russia and Donald Trump. At least both sides confirm this one part which is that they talked about Venezuela. In the readout from the from Moscow it said that Vladimir Putin had said you know what, it's Venezuela and only Venezuela that can determine its future.
Yes. This is where Trump is in many ways getting crossways with his own cabinet. Bolton, John Bolton the national security adviser and Mike Pompeo have both mentioned the presence of Cubans and Russians. Pompeo himself said in an interview just yesterday and earlier this week that but for the Russians Maduro was ready to hop on a flight and go seek exile in Cuba. And Trump comes out and says no, that Putin and I are want what's best in the best interests for Venezuela. So it isn't really clear. Trump is pretty much given both Bolton carte blanche to manage the policy towards Venezuela but isn't really clear that he really has sort of the force to be able to make a regime flip in the way that he desires.
What about the countries in the region? How do they see all of this?
There's a group of Latin American governments that includes Uruguay and Peru and Chile and Mexico and Colombia called the Group of Lima. They actually have come out endorsing Guaidó and have criticized the Maduro government but they've been relatively silent. It's been the United States that's mostly employed sanctions, really tough sanctions. Canada and the E.U. have done some but within the region they have been a little bit more reticent to employ sanctions and they've been very critical of any talk of a U.S. military intervention and they've said that we can't tolerate.
All right. Christopher Sabatini, thanks so much.
Thanks very much.
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