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Hey, Miami: We should observe Jan. 23 as one of our 'scheme day' anniversaries

State of the Union
Patrick Semansky
Guts, but no instant glory: Then Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó at then President Trump's State of the Union address at the U.S. Congress in February 2020.

COMMENTARY Miami — and its exile leaders — too often rely on dubiously fast-track solutions to genuinely long-haul problems. Like the failed Venezuelan Guaidó gambit.

What’s your favorite Miami anniversary?

There’s our founding in 1896, when we remember folks who were nuts enough to live here in wool Victorian underwear without air conditioning. Myself, I’m partial to Feb. 11, a visionary day two years ago when the Magic City proposed becoming the Bitcoin capital of America and… oh, wait, maybe we’re not observing that one anymore.

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But we should, despite the recent Bitcoin bomb-and-bust. I’ve still penciled in a visit to the Miami Bull sculpture next month, because moments like the crypto-craziness are Miami. Our incorrigible reliance on The Scheme defines The 305. Miami may never be a crypto-capital, but it’ll always be a mecca for the easy buck — for the dubious no-sweat solution to every problem. We’re fun-in-the-sun, shorts-and-flip-flops. What did serious effort ever get those chumps up in the Rust Belt?

That’s why today marks another important Miami anniversary. Jan. 23, 2019, is a day that will live in fantasy as surely as Feb. 11, 2021 will. It’s the date then President Donald Trump recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s constitutionally legitimate head of state, instead of disastrously dictatorial President Nicolás Maduro.

READ MORE: Venezuela's Guaidó is on a long-haul mission. Too bad his U.S. cheerleaders aren't.

Wait, you’ll say, that wasn’t a Miami project. Oh, it sure as hell was. The plan was largely engineered, sold, brokered and unveiled here, specifically in Doralzuela (aka Doral), by Venezuelan expats who were understandably desperate watching their patria become the hemisphere’s new socialist police state-cum-economic apocalypse. They convinced Trump that if he just dubbed Guaidó its president, “the other countries of the world will now join us," as one expat leader told me, "and push the Maduro regime from power instantly."

Yeah, that’s an actual quote — including the “instantly” part. That’s my favorite part, really. It so aptly points up how closely the Miami mindset of instant gratification — make Bitcoin legal tender and we’ll be a tech power overnight! — dovetails with the expatriate need to salve the frustration and fury, grief and guilt of exile by instantly reclaiming the lost mother country.

Granted, I’ll be the first to admit I considered the Guaidó gambit a good idea — and still do. And I have the utmost respect for Guaidó and other opposition figures. They had the guts to carry themselves as an alternative government inside a country whose deranged mafioso regime — fingered by the U.N. for crimes against humanity — could toss them into squalid Caracas prison cells at any moment.

The Guaidó stratagem's failure illustrates how closely Miami's mindset of instant gratification dovetails with the expatriate's need for instant reconquest of the lost patria.

But let me be clear: I regarded Trump’s stratagem a symbolic means to an end — the end being Venezuela’s re-democratization — but not the end itself, for God’s sake, as the White House and Doralzuela actually believed it was.

As symbolism, it was potent inspiration for the rest of the world — almost 60 other countries — to recognize Guaidó, too. Still, those nations had the maturity and sense to realize this was only the opening chess move — that it provided an innovative launch for what would have to be long, hard, patient, intelligent diplomatic work.

The kind that pushed out the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile or the apartheid regime in South Africa a generation ago.

Impulsive Antics

Andrew Harnik
Venezuelan expats cheer President Trump during his visit to Florida International University in Miami in 2019.

Unfortunately, neither the Trump administration, nor the Venezuelan expat Brahmins holding self-important press conferences at El Arepazo, could be bothered with any of that. No, they were on the fast, Bitcoin-style track to Venezuelan liberation — they were apparently following the Sam Bankman-Fried guide to regime change — and kept pushing the Guaidó “interim government” to make that “instantly” thing happen. Because, to paraphrase the South Florida poet-laureate KC, in Miami that’s the way (uh-huh, uh-huh) we like it.

So instead of methodical envoy elbow grease — convincing Venezuela’s drug-running military brass to abandon Maduro, for example — we got impulsive antics. Like Guaidó standing on a Caracas airbase with a wee handful of rebel soldiers declaring on Twitter that Venezuela’s armed forces were joining his cause — as Venezuelan generals simultaneously tweeted, “No, we’re not.”

After each such debacle, Trump and Doralzuela repeated the ludicrous threat that a U.S. military invasion of Venezuela was “on the table” — and ultimately alienated the international partners they needed to leverage the regime.

This month Venezuela’s opposition has voted to replace Guaidó with a new leader. And we’re left to observe Jan. 23 as one more Miami scheme day.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.