ANALYSIS - US Indicting Venezuelan Leadership On Narco-Terrorism Pursues Same Old Goal Of Power Swap

MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 31st March, 2020) Attempts to stage a coup in Venezuela by bringing opposition leader Juan Guaido to power have continuously failed to yield results, experts told Sputnik, adding that the United States' move to charge top Venezuelan leadership with criminal offenses is just new tactics to attain the same goal.

Last Thursday, the US indicted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on charges of "narco-terrorism," as announced by US Attorney General William Barr, and pledged a $15 million reward for information leading to Maduro's capture. Other indicted officials include 14 people from Maduro's inner circle in the government and military whose charges include drug trafficking, corruption and money laundering.

"The [US President Donald] Trump administrations' accusations against the president of Venezuela are absurd and ... should be seen as yet another desperate instrument of a failed regime-change policy meant to try to delegitimize the leadership of other states and to justify aggression against them," Mark Sleboda, an international relations and security analyst, told Sputnik.

The charges are especially ironic given that the US' hand-picked Venezuelan politician to success Maduro, opposition leader Juan Guaido, is himself under investigation at home for links to Colombian narco-terrorists. Last fall, Guaido had a hard time having to explain the photo in which he posed alongside two members of the Rastrojos, a notorious Colombian criminal gang of drug traffickers which, Sleboda said, helped him organize the coup attempt.

Last January, Guaido triggered a political crisis in Venezuela by proclaiming himself interim president and launching short-lived mass protests. Several countries, including the US, endorsed him as Venezuela's leader and urged Maduro to step down. Maduro, in turn, openly accused the US of attempting to orchestrate a coup and gain access to the country's oil reserves via bringing a puppet politician to power.

But even before Guaido, the US had made several attempts to foment revolution in Venezuela or to assassinate and depose former leader Hugo Chavez and incumbent president Nicolas Maduro, Michael Derham, an author and political analyst with a focus on Spanish and Latin American studies, told Sputnik.

"The coup in 2002 was the most obvious example when Chavez was kidnapped and an illegal government was sworn in. Subsequently, several assassination attempts have been made, most recently against Maduro by helicopter grenade attack and during a military parade," Derham said.

GUAIDO NO LONGER IN PROMINENCE, HENCE A DIFFERENT TACTICS

According to Derham, "Guaido has fallen from prominence," and the US has now made a different bet on who will bring it Maduro's head for such an attractive reward. His popularity at home has plummeted as well, the expert said, going on to describe Guaido after his latest return from the meeting with Trump in the US as "diminished, cowed, like a beaten dog."

"He [Guaido] is accused of corruption himself and of selling out soldiers who pledged their allegiance to him. He is no longer capable of inciting mass uprisings, much less an invasion from Colombia. I think the US has basically given up on him despite not admitting as much openly. Therefore they have resorted to tactics from the 19th Century Wild West by putting a 'bounty' on Maduro's head in the hope that someone, anyone (probably organized crime) will do their bidding," Derham said.

The expert went on to call such tactics a "rogue terrorist activity," akin to the US assassinating Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a prominent Iranian military leader who led elite the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, at the onset of the year in Iraq.

Traditionally, these assassinations were kept quiet and denied to preserve the US reputation in the world, which the expert said allowed Washington to criticize and overthrow what it dubbed "rogue states and terrorist states" in the guise of propagating peace, and people believed this narrative.

"Recently, under Trump, all pretense has been discarded. Trump is happy to claim credit for assassinations, to openly refuse to leave Iraq when ordered out by the government and to brag about 'trade wars' and sanctions on China, Iran and Russia and even the EU. This US - or Trumpian - self aggrandizement has undermined the US reputation and is showing the US in its true colors," Derham said.

There is a reason why Trump chose to put forward the indictment at this very time, Derham continued. He cited a publication of the Washington Office on Latin America, an NGO and think tank promoting human rights in the Americas, earlier this month that had revealed that Venezuela is not the Primary transit country of US-bound cocaine. In fact, 90 percent of the drug traffic bypasses Venezuela. The authors used statistics compiled by the US governmental Consolidated Counterdrug Database to draw those conclusions.

The US' reputation is falling around the world amid Russia championing defense in Syria and helping Italy fight the COVID-19, the same way as China is displaying an apparent success in tackling the coronavirus outbreak in a way that contrasts markedly with the US' and EU's chaos and dither, Derham said.

"The western press/media might under-report the situation but I think the era of US domination, and willing western submission, is rapidly coming to an end. In an era of political correctness and virtue signaling the vicious, uncaring and cold-hearted response from the US when dealing with COVID-19-hit populations in Iran and Venezuela will engender popular opposition around the world," the expert continued.

According to the expert, Trump now hopes the "bounty" will do what the targeted subsidy of Guaido could not - remove Maduro quickly "before the tv screens fill with more virus victims in Venezuela and before more people become aware of the findings of his own government secret services which absolve Maduro of drug trafficking allegations."

Such tactics have precedents, Derham said, and in each case, the "personalization of enemies" was used as a chief tool. As an example, he cited the case of Manuel Noriega, the former president of Panama and allegedly ex-CIA resource, being accused of drug trafficking into the US, which led to an invasion, and his trial and imprisonment in the US.

"In the immediate case of Venezuela, unlike Panama there will not be a US invasion. It would be too difficult with too much open popular hostility to the US in a heavily-armed, mostly pro-Chavez - if not necessarily pro-Maduro - population and a still loyal military," Derham said.

What will happen next in Venezuela, according to the expert, is that Guaido will be further sidelined by the US and the opposition will continue to make agreements with the government to hold elections, which, however, should not be expected to happen anytime soon given the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

"I think the US attacks and sanctions against Venezuela have strengthened Maduro's position and he seems to have become more statesmanlike over the last year," Derhem said.

He added that coupled with Guaido's apparent public downfall, Maduro is likely to win any forthcoming election.