T his week will be crucial in the uprising against the despotic Dominic Nicolas Maduro. This is because Tuesday the Venezuelans will gather to demand the resignation of Maduro and will also try to bring US aid across the Colombian border.
Maduro ordered his military to stop them. So will the military shoot against the Venezuelans?
This week's events differ from previous protests. Where previous street protests have signaled great discontent with Maduro, they have not directly challenged his control over the military. But the Venezuelan activist tries to bring US aid across the border forcing Maduro to decide whether to blink and allow help, or order an action to force him.
Maduro's rival, interim president Juan Guaido, hopes that Maduro will blink. Both he and Maduro know that the United States has warned that any action against US personnel, some of which will support aid convoys, or against Guaido himself, are red lines. The implication is that any Maduro attack on aid convoys will result in a military showdown with the United States that Maduro is sure to lose.
Guaido also hopes that mid-Venezuelan-level officers at the battalion or brigade level will reject the order of Maduro and then unify against him. And if Guaido wins the colonels, he extracts the carpet from the generals of Maduro and forces the fall of the despot.
However, the possibility of bloodshed can not be ruled out. Maduro is convinced that the supply of aid is a pretext to overthrow his regime. And while most of the military personnel now oppose Maduro, he continues to follow his orders in fear of retaliation by Cubans against their families. As Adm Craig Faller told Congress last week, "Venezuela has about 2,000 generals, more than all NATO members put together, and most of them are on Maduro's payroll through illicit drug trafficking and corrupt businesses, buy their loyalty and their protection. "The admiral added that Cuba" practically owns security around Maduro and is deeply rooted in intelligence service ".
The Trump administration must continue to support deliveries of aid to innocent civilians who desperately need it. He must continue to warn that any damage done to Guaido or US diplomats will result in extreme reprisals. And it must keep up the pressure on Cuba, making clear that the continued support of Havana for despotism will lead to a steady rise in US pressure.