Friday, February 15, 2019

Venezuela Stalls

Events in Venezuela are of course moving and changing constantly, but there seems to be a stalemate vibe at the moment. What got me thinking along those lines was that for the first time, Juan Guaidó felt the need to say publicly that he wasn't failing. To be fair, he was responding to Nicolás Maduro jibes, so might not have said anything on his own.

Maduro also noted how his representatives met with Elliott Abrams and got the impression the U.S. was more flexible than it sounded in public. The trick here is that there are mixed messages--a good cop/bad cop scenario that might not be intentional. Abrams has said things will take time, Marco Rubio and John Bolton want tough talk and to push military action, and Trump's attention is elsewhere. Who knows how far he is willing to go. My main concern is that he accepts the argument that letting this drag on makes him look bad. He does not like looking weak. But Maduro can see daylight through the cracks in the administration.

Just as in the past, there have been large protests over different days and the military is not budging. How long can people keep up those protests? Fatigue sets in. Undoubtedly this fact is making Maduro feel like he has some breathing room.

Maduro claims he can shift oil exports elsewhere, and India is already looking at ways to conduct transactions that avoid U.S. financial institutions. If Maduro finds more alternatives like this, he can hang on longer, or at least generate enough cash to keep the military happy for a while longer. Since oil production keeps dropping, who knows how long that would be.

I am still worried about the Trump administration throwing up its hands and using military force in some way. February 23 is going to be critical because that is when Guaidó said he was going to try to push humanitarian aid into Venezuela. If shots are fired, then all bets are off.


shah8 2:02 AM  

My estimation is that the policy is basically FUBAR from here to Hell and back. FT had a major editorial about how there is no policy process in the White House (that's bad) some time back, and it's showing up majorly now.

The issue is that Maduro and his backers will probably win if they manage to hold out maybe three more years. Dunno if they can actually get there, but I estimate some real limitations on how Washington can keep the balls in the air that long.

Therefore, I don't think there is a tiny chance of military intervention, simply because of a combination of both a simple desire to have a war and a refusal to deescalate. I think that the sheer practically and political sustainability of a war in Venezuela will be major dissuading factor, however.

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