Tensions Rise in Venezuela as Guaido Seeks Return

The steady drip of Venezuelan soldiers that have given themselves over to Colombian immigration officials over the past week slowly rises – as of Thursday, an astounding total of 567 had defected, CNN informs.

This is perhaps the most enduring sign of change since the world was startled by clashes last weekend, when Venezuelan opposition protesters tried to force humanitarian aid into the country over border crossings, past Venezuelan riot police and pro-Maduro gangs.

Now, military defectors have crossed over with stories of hunger, corruption and abuse. The closure of the Simon Bolivar International Bridge at the border has not just increased tension between the Venezuelan National Guard who police it, and the Colombian police who have endured tear gas over the past week; it has also robbed many Venezuelans on the other side of the border of their livelihoods.

So what’s next for this standoff? Diplomatically, the path ahead is predictable, CNN notes. Russia’s support of President Nicolás Maduro is unwavering, rhetorically at least. Analysts question Moscow’s desire to fund and assist what many say is a chaotic and corrupt kleptocracy on the other side of the world indefinitely. But for now, their veto at the United Nations prevents resolutions that could further corner the Maduro government, and assures the Cold War nature of this standoff continues to distract from the humanitarian crisis at its heart.

European states and most of Venezuela’s neighbors tend to oppose Maduro, and support self-declared interim president and opposition leader, Juan Guaido. Yet they are hesitant over fiercer sanctions, or to entertain military intervention as an option, CNN points out.

The United States appears on a steeper trajectory, applying fresh sanctions to Maduro’s inner circles, and refusing to rule out military intervention. High-level officials including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and special envoy Elliot Abrams made trips to the Venezuela-Colombian border last week in support of Guaido, and even Guaido doesn’t want the U.S. military option off the table.

In an address on Facebook on Sunday, Guaido called for protests on the streets of Venezuela on Monday. He said the opposition will be “going with much more force to the streets of Venezuela.”

Guaido burst into the spotlight about a month ago, turning from obscure opposition politician to global figure in a matter of weeks. Many of his team are energized and optimistic, but they know that the situation is very new to them, and fast moving.

In an interview with the Washington Post on Sunday, Guaido said he saw multiple scenarios that could lead to the ouster of Maduro without the use of external force. “First, that an election is allowed to take place in a free and transparent manner. That’s what we’re working for as soon as possible,” NPR writes.

Also, he said, “there is an option where the military could get on the side of the constitution and of Guaido and of the resistance, and it could stop the usurpation. That’s the option that uses force, but it comes from within.”

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