On Thursday the Inter-American Dialogue’s daily publication the Latin America Advisor ran a Q&A on the significance of the accusations of misappropriation of funds by opposition designates in Colombia and the whether Juan Guaidó’s movement was losing steam. Julia Buxton, Charles Shapiro, Gustavo Roosen and I all responded. My answer is appended below. You can read all four here.
Venezuela’s attorney general on June 18 accused opposition leader Juan Guaidó of leading an alleged scheme in which two of his representatives are accused of misappropriating money meant to help Venezuelan military defectors living in Colombia. Guaidó has vowed to investigate. How big a blow are the allegations to Venezuela’s opposition movement? Will Guaidó lose support over the episode? Is the movement to oust President Nicolás Maduro losing steam?
The accusations of misappropriation are not transcendental in their impact. But they are a part of a process of political normalization that does not work in Guaidó’s favor. His project to become interim president and usher in a democratic transition was facilitated by his image as a fresh face, legitimately representing Venezuelan’s aspirations for liberty and well-being. Among the population, accusations such as these transmit a perception that Guaidó and his coalition are just another band of politicians seeking personal benefit. And these perceptions contribute to a more general malaise that this new opposition coalition is no more effective than past opposition coalitions at confronting Chavismo. Behind this, of course, are the very real facts that Guaidó has failed to gain military support and the interest of the U.S. is fading, as is talk of foreign military intervention. There is considerable consensus within the opposition leadership that they need to change directions and negotiate with the Maduro government. But selling that to their followers and trying to keep their coalition unified in the process is their current challenge. Just as hard is getting the U.S. to be constructive. While there is implicit recognition deep within the Trump administration regarding the need for negotiation, key U.S. diplomats around the globe continue to push an anti-negotiation message.