According to several news sources, rumors are circulating of an imminent Venezuelan coup on reigning President Nicolás Maduro.
A recent Stratfor Global Intelligence report titled “Analytic Guidance: Considering a Coup in Venezuela” said that the current food crisis in the country, coupled with the collapse of oil revenues, have set sitting President Maduro up for a fall. Maduro has had trouble reining in the various Chavista factions, some of whom may be maneuvering to depose him.
“Given the critical economic situation, it is possible that members of government are planning extreme measures,” Stratfor said.
The report cites units of the armed forces, as well as paramilitary groups as potential conspirators against Maduro, without which a coup would be virtually impossible.
Those calling for Maduro’s resignation have indicated that the president is unable to solve the serious problems of shortages. Current food scarcity has meant that citizens are spending more than eight hours outside supermarkets queuing up to buy what little is available.
Maduro is presently out of the country, on an international fundraising tour to China, Russia, and Iran. With him are his immediate family, along with Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López. Maduro has not said when he will return.
According to information from Stratfor sources, military commanders and auxiliary security forces, known as “colectivos,” aim to coordinate with the deputies of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela to “prevent Maduro from resuming power once he returns to the country.”
The growing rumors of a coup shed further light on the scathing public letter from the Venezuelan Conference of Catholic Bishops released on Monday. The letter accuses the Maduro government of totalitarian oppression of citizens and widespread violations of human rights. At the same time, the bishops also call for “sincere, effective dialogue” as “the road to achieve the necessary consultation and solve the serious problems of the country.”
Despite being severely critical of the government, the document rejects the use of violence to achieve social, political, and economic change. “The political forces and the Venezuelan people in general must reject all forms of violence,” the bishops said.
“If we act with the weapon of non-violence, we can rebuild the social life, the constitutional order and the internal peace of the Republic,” they said.
Similarly, in his yearly address to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps this week, Pope Francis mentioned Venezuela by name, saying he encouraged “the initiatives aimed at reestablishing harmony in the political and social life” of the country.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.