Elliott Abrams, the United States envoy to Venezuela, has surrendered: “I do not think Europe, Latin America, Canada and the United States are thinking, at this moment, of a military reaction.” It was his response to concern about whether interim president Juan Guaidó should request a military intervention, or cooperation, through the activation of Article 187, Section 11 (which establishes that the National Assembly can authorize foreign military missions in Venezuela).
“I think it’s premature. I think it’s not the right time…My advice would be that at this time it would not be very useful,” he stressed in an interview with Caracol Radio.
The United States has thus neutralized, with Abrams’ statements, the credible threat. He has just uncocked a loaded revolver, pointing at Maduro.
And the dictator can breathe a sigh of relief.
There is little room for interpretation regarding what the envoy said. After months, more than a year, with the emerging possibility of a military incursion to depose Maduro, with repeated emphasis again and again on the fact that all options are on that giant table…that Maduro should beware laying a hand on Guaidó, and that the tyrant underestimates the power United States…now the Trump administration has just squandered a golden opportunity
In his speech to the Venezuelan community, at the University of Miami, Trump ratified his commitment to the cause of freedom in Venezuela. There, before the world, he confessed his concern with his historical legacy. He said that he hopes that, under his administration, the Americas will become the first completely free hemisphere in the history of mankind. When he finished with Maduro, he would also remove Castro and Ortega.
But Maduro will only leave by force. And there are only two options: domestic force or foreign force. And the domestic force, that which currently lies in the hands of the military, seems unfeasible. The external one remains. Or, rather, it remained: because today Abrams has apparently discarded that possibility.
María Corina Machado has a lot riding on this. She is the one who has spent weeks championing a proposal: the activation of Article 187, Section 11. The key Venezuelan opposition leader understands well, and has made it clear, that only our allies have the ability to help us, the Venezuelan people, to restore our freedom.
She has boldly fought for her ideas, and with them, the urgency of invoking this uncomfortable article. Her work, in favor of activating this constitutional provision, has now been sabotaged by Abrams, who dismissed the Machado route. Given this situation, one of the main leaders of the Venezuelan opposition said: “The statement by Elliott Abrams shows that the time frame of our allies may differ from ours.”
“The time frame of Venezuelans is one of hunger, exodus, and death. Today, we must press for the acceleration of international assistance to Venezuela. Therefore, Article 187.11 must be invoked,” she said, making it clear that she will insist on the route of requesting military cooperation to overthrow Maduro.
Machado notes that with regard to Abrams’ hesitation, that he stated that military action would be premature. He did not rule it out entirely. In an interview with the PanAm Post Machado said: “[Abrams] has said ‘later’. He has not said ‘no’. We can not allow that ‘later’ to become a ‘too late’ “.
“That’s why we have to take the initiative. It is politically and ethically necessary to convince our allies and obtain the resources we need. It is inherent to true leadership,” she added.
I agree with this last statement. It is still in the hands of Juan Guaidó to protect that which has been accomplished, and set the agenda going forward. All responsibility falls on his shoulders, and expectations are rising. He has had little time to rise to the challenge and show that he is up to the task.
But time is running out. And there is a key variable in play. Because the declaration of Abrams amounts to a giant torpedo aimed at President Guaidó and against María Corina Machado.
And for this reason Maduro is celebrating. The deterrent is gone. The credible threat has been neutralized, and Juan Guaidó is now weakened before the dictatorship.
A strengthened regime, aware that the enemy will never fire, is dangerous. Fierce and ruthless, it can take advantage of the capitulation of the United States to suppress its opponents.
If the United States in the near future, plans to discard the possibility of the use of force to remove Maduro from power, or to prevent Chavismo from continuing to go beyond intolerable limits, the regime that keeps Venezuela hostage has triumphed.
Abrams’ statements look like a capitulation. And Donald Trump must live with the shame of backing down from the battle. It was a bluff. All talk. He was full of hot air.
Finally, we must remember what the diplomat Diego Arria told the PanAm Post: “We can not forget that Abrams, despite being in charge of Venezuela, is not the president of the United States. And if Abrams is wrong here, it would not be the first time.”
I wish I was wrong. I wish it had been an irresponsible gesture of naivety or simplicity. Or a bad interpretation on our part. But what a big blow Abrams has given to the Venezuelan opposition.