Forensics Of A Clownish Coup
Moon of Alabama
May. 3, 2019
Tuesdays clownish coup attempt in Venezuela failed. The Trump administration got snookered. It will have to either change its tactic or leave the issue alone. National Security Advisor John Bolton is pressing for a war on Venezuela.
While the Pentagon and the countries neighboring Venezuela are against the use of military force, it is Bolton who has President Trump’s ear. The planning for a war seems to progress fast.
Lucas Tomlinson @LucasFoxNews – 00:18 utc- 3 May 2019Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton just left Pentagon following meeting with acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan in secure conference room known as ‘The Tank’ to discuss military options for Venezuela, per senior defense official
A similar meeting took place on Wednesday May 1 in the White House.
The head of U.S. Southern Command admits that plans are ready but plays down the chance for a war:
Admiral Craig Faller insisted that the U.S. wanted a peaceful transfer of power but declared that his Southern Command was ready for any scenario. He said his military staff had made ‘Day Now’ plans to prepare for an immediate change of power as opposition leader Juan Guaido tries to topple Maduro.’We call it Day Now because there is going to be a day when the legitimate government takes over, and it’s going to come when we least expect it – and it could be right now,’ Faller said. But Faller, the head of the Southern Command in Latin America, insisted: ‘Our leadership’s been clear: It has to be, should be, primarily a democratic transition.’
UPDATE (May 5):
In a very unusual move U.S. Southern Command put out a press statement about the Pentagon meeting:
Yesterday the commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) was asked by Acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick M. Shanahan, to remain in Washington D.C. to provide a current assessment on the situation in Venezuela and the status on planning for military options
U.S. Southern Command stands with the people of Venezuela who are suffering at the hand of the illegitimate Maduro regime and remains prepared to support all options, when requested by senior leadership.
That U.S. Southcom was told to release this, lets me believe that it is part of scare tactic, not of serious war planning. Then again – the last sentence is somewhat confusing. Which “senior leadership” is meant here. The U.S. one or the wannabe leaders Guaidó/López? As Guaidó is recognized as ‘interim President’ by the U.S. could he ask the U.S. military to help him to ‘restore democracy’, i.e. request an invasion? Would that be a way for Trump to avoid a Congress vote?
Politico seems to confirm that the current talk of military planning is a head fake:
Two U.S. officials told POLITICO these actions are designed more to rattle Maduro — and Venezuelan military leaders who have been a key source of support for him — than to foreshadow an American military effort in Venezuela.
One can not “rattle Maduro” by tough talk. He hails from a tough neighborhood and has a working class and trade union background. Even the threat of an aircraft carrier offshore of Caracas, as the insane Senator Lindsay Graham demands, would not rattle him.
But even if the current tough talk and military planning is just for show, what happens when the White House recognizes that it does not have any effect? What will be the the next step after that?
Venezuela is not an easy target. Colonel (ret.) Larry Wilkerson, the former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, writes:
I know the Venezuelan military; I’ve trained some of them.
The majority of them, if the U.S. military arrives in Venezuela, will take to the hills – very formidable hills, with jungle-like backdrops – and they will harass, kill, take prisoner from time to time, and generally hold out forever or until the “gringos” leave. We might remember how the North Vietnamese and the Taliban accomplished this; well, so will the Venezuelans.
The opposition is wary of a U.S. intervention:
Many believe U.S. troops could ignite internal conflicts within the military, irregular forces linked to Maduro and criminal cartels. Intervention would also undermine Guaidó’s claim to be a grass roots Venezuelan leader by seeming to confirm that he’s exactly what Maduro has claimed: A puppet of the United States.A U.S. military intervention would “bring more problems than solutions,” said Carlos Valero, a Guaidó supporter in the National Assembly.
Political analyst Felix Seijas, director of the Delphos polling agency in Caracas, says fewer than a fifth of the Venezuelans he has surveyed this year support a military intervention. The numbers have gone up only slightly since the beginning of the year.
There were more warnings from Russia during a Trump-Putin phone call today:
While exchanging views on the situation around Venezuela, the President of Russia underscored that only the Venezuelans themselves have the right to determine the future of their country, whereas outside interference in the country’s internal affairs and attempts to change the government in Caracas by force undermine prospects for a political settlement of the crisis.
The planning and decision making for the next phase of the U.S. attack on Venezuela will take time.
Meanwhile we can continue to analyze why the U.S. coup plan failed so devastatingly.
To arrange for the coup attempt the administration and its Venezuelan proxies, Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López, talked with many senior Venezuelan officials and officers. They made offers and threats and tried to arrange deals. There was even a written 15 point paper. Most the officials and officers seem to have agreed to cooperate, only to turn around to inform their higher ups.
By talking to so many people the coup plotters made way too much noise. The Venezuelan government seems to have been well informed about the whole plot. It likely was convinced that a coup would fail and let it run its course to embarrass the people behind it. Allowing the coup attempt to happen would also reveal turncoats and spies within the government structures.
Of the many people the coup plotters thought they had convinced to come to their side only one man followed through. It was Manuel Christopher Figuera, the director of the national intelligence service SEBIN, who ordered the release of opposition leader Leopoldo López who was under guard of SEBIN agents.
From a new forensic piece by Bloomberg:
The Trump administration and Guaido’s team are still trying to figure out what went wrong.
Lopez’s clandestine release from house arrest by the feared Sebin intelligence agency was but one step in a complex transition negotiated with top aides to Maduro, not all of whom were speaking to one another, according to people in Washington and Caracas familiar with the negotiations and who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.And within hours, the deal between the opposition and the Maduro camp was dead. Lopez ultimately sought refuge in the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas, emerging briefly Thursday to talk to reporters. U.S. officials expressed fury at the Venezuelans close to Maduro who they believe double-crossed them.
Those singled out by National Security Adviser John Bolton — the defense minister, the supreme court president and the head of the presidential guard — were central players in a large cast discussing how to abandon Maduro and recognize Guaido as the interim president, according to the people familiar with the negotiations.
Lopez was released because the Sebin intelligence chief, General Manuel Christopher Figuera, was fully on board, the people said. As part of the arrangement, Figuera’s wife flew to safety in the U.S. on Sunday. On Tuesday night, after Figuera released a letter explaining his decision, Maduro replaced him as intelligence chief. Figuera has left Venezuela, according to two opposition officials, though they said they don’t where he has gone.
It was also Figuera, the head of SEBIN, who arranged for additional soldiers to augment the 25 or so mercenaries Guaidó had at hand:
Some of Guaidó’s soldiers took the first opportunity to defect, claiming they had been tricked. One of them explained how officers had given them weapons at the Helicoide, the SEBIN headquarters, and told they were going to put down a mass jailbreak.
The Jim Dore Show has video of the soldier explaining how he and his comrades were tricked.
Figuera might also be the source for a “secret dossier” that was peddled to the New York Times. It claims without evidence that Tareck El Aissami, a former vice-president and now industry minister of Venezuela, arranged passports for the Lebanese Hizbullah and was involved in drug dealing. Tareck El Aissami is of Syrian descent:
The dossier, provided to The New York Times by a former top Venezuelan intelligence official and confirmed independently by a second one, recounts testimony from informants accusing Mr. El Aissami and his father of recruiting Hezbollah members to help expand spying and drug trafficking networks in the region.
The quality of the dossier is likely as good as the one the former MI6 agent Christopher Steele created about Donald Trump.
Back to the Bloomberg piece:
“Many of us thought, as the weeks went by, that it was astonishing Maduro hadn’t discovered it already but that may be because so many on the inside wanted it to succeed,” one person familiar with the matter said. “They believe Maduro began to get an understanding of what was happening on the 29th and they had to move on the 30th or it would all collapse.”
Other speculation falls on Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez who, according to one person close to the situation, was engaged in the negotiations while informing Maduro and his Russian and Cuban allies of the talks. The defense minister was with Maduro when the president gave a speech at the military academy in Caracas Thursday.
But it may be that many more balked. There was confusion over who would make the first move, according to a person close to the situation. It could be that there were so many participants that one hand often didn’t know what the other was doing.
Elliott Abrams, the State Department’s special envoy for Venezuela, told a Venezuelan television station Wednesday that “a majority of the high command were talking with the Supreme Court and Juan Guaido about a change in government with the departure of Maduro and with guarantees for the military.”He said the negotiations had created a 15-point document that included a “dignified exit” for Maduro and recognition by the high court of Guaido as interim president with elections within a year. It had been widely assumed that Leopoldo Lopez, a former mayor of a wealthy district in Caracas, would be a leading candidate.
The whole arrangement sounds extremely amateurish. Why talk to so many people? Why not concentrate on the few that really matter? Why not get some guarantees from them? The SEBIN chief who supported the coup had no other choice left as his wife was already in the U.S. and could have been used as hostage. Why were there not similar arrangements for other officials?
Back in March the U.S. withdrew all its staff from its embassy in Caracas. That must have weakened the CIA’s capabilities on the ground. It also seems that much of the coordination was done by Elliot Abrams and others in the White House. They were obviously guided by wishful thinking and not by a realistic analysis of Venezuela and of the people leading it.
To believe that a Leopoldo López could win in fair presidential elections in Venezuela is pretty absurd. He has treid to overthrow the government six times. He led the brutal protests in 2014 and is known as an ruthless rightwing operator. His party, Voluntad Popular, describes itself as progressive social-democratic but is at best hard right if not fascists. It holds only 14 of the 163 seats in the National Assembly.
López is for now out of jail but isolated:
On Thursday, a Caracas court issued a warrant for Lopez, revoking his house arrest and ordering him to spend the remaining eight years of his 13-year sentence in Ramo Verde military prison; he was convicted of charges including arson and instigating violence after spearheading anti-government protests. The Spanish foreign ministry said on its website that Lopez would “under no circumstances” be handed over to Venezuelan authorities.
López can stay in the embassy. But as long as he is there Spain will not allow him a political role:
“Spain will not permit its embassy to be converted in to a center of political activity by Mr Lopez, or anyone else,” [Spain’s acting Foreign Minister Josep] Borrell said on the sidelines of a conference in Beirut.
“Lopez has not asked for political asylum because, according to our legislation, for that you must request it while on Spanish territory,” Borrell said adding that while he was at the embassy, there would be a limit to his political activity.
The delusion of the coup plotters in the White House can be seen in their newest spin:
The U.S. is pointing to the breadth of the failed plot as evidence that, no matter how badly it went, Maduro’s days are numbered with the country having plunged into dysfunction and the economy in a shambles. “This was just the tip of the iceberg,” said a senior administration official who asked not to be named. Many close to Maduro were in on the endgame, the official said, and their eagerness to send him packing shows how isolated he is.
The logic makes little sense: “Many people told us they would take our side but stood with Maduro. That shows us that Maduro has lost them and that we will win.”
Unfortunately U.S. mainstream media deliver similar stupid analysis:
Talks between opposition leaders and senior Maduro officials that have come to light this week suggest deception in [Maduro’s] inner circle. And despite Guaidó’s actions, neither prosecutors nor the pro-Maduro Supreme Court have issued an arrest warrant for him — a sign, his allies say, of just how weak Maduro is.
There was a lot of deception within Maduro’s inner circle. But it was the opposition and its backers who were deceived, not Nicolas Maduro.
Putting Guaidó into jail would only make him a martyr. The U.S. would use it to for further bashing. Guaidó running continues to turn himself into a clown.