The U.S. on March 26 indicted authoritarian Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on narco-terrorism charges. Just days later the Trump Administration has laid out a "transition plan" for finally getting rid of Maduro.
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would lift economic sanctions on Venezuela if Maduro agrees to step down and yield power to a five-member governing council. That opposition-led body would hold new presidential and parliamentary elections later this year or next.
Venezuela’s already wrecked economy is sinking even deeper under the coronavirus crisis. So the Trump Administration is betting Maduro and his socialist regime will agree to the plan. But skeptics say it’s unlikely.
“When a foreign government comes in and imposes a so-called plan, it’s really not a plan, it is now an order," says Venezuelan-American political analyst Helena Poleo of Influence Communications in Miami. "So I cannot see this going over well with the Maduro regime.”
The regime did reject the U.S. proposal as soon as it was announced. Poleo says a big question is why the plan lets Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino — who is also indicted in the U.S. — keep his job. (Most likely, she says, as an attempt to drive a wedge between Maduro and the military, whose loyalty has essentially kept him in power.)
In Caracas, political analyst Dimitris Pantoulas says a key sticking point will be Pompeo’s insistence that Maduro not run in a new presidential election (a condition not in the State Department's original document of the plan).
“It’s not a plan that Maduro will seriously discuss," Pantoulas says. "But it’s a positive step [that] the U.S. now speaks about negotiation — the plan can be the starting point to a negotiation process.”
Polls show Maduro would almost certainly lose a presidential election now. The plan would let Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó be a candidate. The U.S. currently recognizes him as the country’s legitimate president.
Trump is hoping U.S.-pressured regime change in Venezuela will help him with Latino swing voters in South Florida.