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What next for Venezuela? Guaido calls for final push to oust Maduro after Trump reaffirms support

Key Points
  • National Assembly leader Juan Guaido told supporters on Wednesday that preparations were being made for a mass mobilization — called "Operation Freedom" — in a bid to force Maduro to step down.
  • It comes at a time when the South American country is in the midst of the Western Hemisphere's worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.
  • On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said Russia "needs to get out" of Venezuela, adding that "all options" were on the table to remove its soldiers.
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Venezuela's Juan Guaidó is going up against Maduro's regime

Venezuela's opposition leader has urged supporters to prepare for a final push to try to oust President Nicolas Maduro, calling on his followers to take to the streets to protest over nationwide power cuts.

It comes at a time when the South American country is in the midst of the Western Hemisphere's worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.

On Monday, Venezuela was hit by another massive power outage. The rolling blackouts — which have become a near daily occurrence in recent years — have hit hospitals, public transport, water pipelines and other services.

Maduro has said the power cuts were an act of sabotage by the opposition and the U.S.

However, opposition lawmakers in Venezuela say the blame lies solely with the socialist government, following two decades of economic mismanagement, under-investment and corruption.

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido waves supporters after giving details of what he calls 'Operation Freedom' during a rally with local and regional leaders, in Caracas on March 27, 2019.
YURI CORTEZ | AFP | Getty Images

Two months after Juan Guaido took to the streets of Caracas to declare himself as the country's rightful president, the National Assembly leader told supporters on Wednesday that preparations were being made for a mass mobilization — called "Operation Freedom" — in a bid to force Maduro to step down.

"Guaido must prioritize the mobilization and organization of the population to make sure domestic pressure is aligned to international pressure," Diego Moya-Ocampos, principal political analyst for Latin America at IHS Markit, told CNBC via telephone.

"The government's brutal repression of the people could soon lead to full-blown civil unrest. But, a real concern would be whether this is enough to make a difference to the stalemate," Moya-Ocampos said.

Trump orders Russia to 'get out' of Venezuela

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said Russia "needs to get out" of Venezuela, adding that "all options" were on the table to remove its soldiers.

His comments come after two Russian military planes touched down in Caracas over the weekend, fueling speculation that Moscow is seeking to bolster its presence in the oil-rich, but cash-poor, country.

"The illegal presence of Russian troops on Venezuelan soil, the fact that the government has repeatedly denied citizens access to humanitarian aid while public services are collapsing and the migration crisis continues to intensify … It all means that the likelihood of a pragmatic regional discussion on the need for military intervention is increasing," Moya-Ocampos said.

Trump was speaking to reporters in the Oval Office alongside Fabiana Rosales, a 26-year-old activist and the wife of opposition leader Juan Guaido.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Fabiana Rosales (L), the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, in the Oval Office of the White House March 27, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee | Getty Images

He told Rosales the U.S. was "100 percent" behind Venezuela's opposition.

At a time when Guaido is calling for protests against Maduro in Venezuela, Rosales is seeking to drum up international support with highly-publicized tours of neighboring countries.

"It is just a waiting game," Eileen Gavin, senior politics analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, told CNBC via telephone.

"The U.S. is all bark and no bite when it comes to military intervention and there is absolutely no regional support for it."

More than 50 countries, including the U.S. and most Latin American and European countries, have recognized Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

It has thrust Venezuela into uncharted territory — whereby it now has an internationally-recognized government, with no control over state functions, running parallel to Maduro's regime.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro talks to the media after a meeting for signing an agreement on guarantees for the vote at the National Electoral Council (CNE) headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela March 2, 2018.
Marco Bello | Reuters

Earlier this year, the Trump administration imposed targeted sanctions on state-owned oil company, PDVSA, in an attempt to try to cut off revenues to Maduro. Oil provides around 90 percent of export revenue for Venezuela, according to Reuters data.

Trump has said tougher sanctions on the OPEC producer are still to come.

"Does the U.S. have a plan B other than starving the Venezuelan government? It doesn't appear so," Gavin said.

Is there a danger Guaido could soon be arrested?

"I fear for my husband's life," Rosales said, when speaking alongside Trump on Wednesday.

She was accompanied on her trip to the White House by the wife and sister of Roberto Marrero, Guaido's chief of staff, who was arrested and detained last week.

"The arrest of Marrero is really a sign of Maduro's team seeing what they can get away with. But, I would say it is unlikely they go after Guaido in the short term," Mark Keller, a Venezuela expert and lead analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC via telephone.

Instead, Keller said he would expect Maduro's government to wait until the National Assembly leader was no longer in the international spotlight before "coming up with a charge" to detain him.

"I do think Guaido is at risk of arrest but, of course, there would be huge blow-back if they make a move against him," Verisk Maplecroft's Gavin said.