What a Drone Attack Says About Venezuela's Future
A democratic transition for the Latin American country requires a firm engagement by the international community, the government and the opposition.
Dr. Smilde is a sociologist specialized in civil society and political conflict in Latin America. He has studied Venezuela for 25 years.
It was a perfect metaphor to describe the government of President Nicolás Maduro. In a military parade designed to show him as a powerful commander in chief, Mr. Maduro was interrupted mid-speech by an explosion. Live state television immediately cut to a shot of the orderly formations of National Guardsmen facing the stage. But when a second explosion rang out, the National Guardsmen scattered and ran for cover. State television coverage broke to a triumphant cartoon image of a running stallion.
The first task of any autocrat is to look strong and invincible. But the Aug. 4 assassination attempt made Mr. Maduro looked weak and vulnerable. That an amateurish drone attack could get so close to the president shows the deterioration of Venezuela‘s state apparatus at the highest levels. That the soldiers would break and scatter to save their own hides reveals the superficiality of the support that the president has around him.
What would have happened had the assassination attempt been successful? Without any viable opposition, it most likely would have empowered Chavista military loyalists to take charge and make Venezuela into a true military dictatorship. Or it could have begun an armed conflict between rival factions within Chavismo.
No one knows whether the Maduro regime will last decades or days. But this drone attack should be a warning to international stakeholders. To achieve an orderly, democratic and nonviolent solution to the Venezuelan crisis, international pressure must be complemented by constructive engagement of both the government and opposition.
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