Coup Rumours Swirl in Venezuela: Will Maduro Face the Same Fate as Mugabe?

Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in as the new President of Zimbabwe on Friday capping a wild series of events that started out with what was initially reported as a military coup on November 16 and the resignation of Robert Mugabe on November 21 bringing his 37- year rule to a historic end.

As Zimbabweans danced on the streets of Harare to celebrate the change in leadership, many are wondering if the same fate would befall the strongman President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro who ironically maintained a close relationship with Mugabe.

According to Lewis & Clark Law School professor and author of the book, “The Democratic Coup d’Etat”, Ozan Varol, conditions in Venezuela are ripe for a military uprising:

“Mid-level officers and rank and file have been marginalized by Maduro and continue to languish along with Venezuela’s population.”

Military coup rumours have been swirling in Venezuela the past few years. In 2016, Senior U.S. Intelligence officers who were closely monitoring affairs in Latin American reported there was evidence to believe associates close to Maduro could have him removed from office via military takeover.

As recent as last June, a group reportedly composed of military and police insurgents issued a stern demand for Maduro to step down from office. Oscar Perez who represents the group said they were standing up to Maduro’s “criminal government”.

“We don’t belong to a party… we are nationalists, patriots and institutionalists. We intend to return power to the democratic people and comply with laws in order to restore constitutional order.”

Another factor that could push the military to take action is the critical condition of Venezuela’s economy.

Ever since the U.S. banned Venezuela and the state-oil giant Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) from accessing the international banking system, Caracas has had to use money set aside for imports including food staples to pay off its debt.

According to credit agency Standard & Poor, Venezuela has already failed to pay its interest payments which have ballooned to $237 Million.

Hyperinflation is an economic condition that Venezuela shares with Zimbabwe. In addition, Caracas is dealing with rising cases of malnutrition and other health issues affecting Venezuelans.

Perhaps the only factor that is preventing a military uprising from taking place is the state of Venezuela’s fragmented opposition. Under a democracy, the opposition would assume control if the ruling party has been rendered powerless.

But political bickering has splintered the opposition. High ranking opposition leader Antonio Ledezma has left Venezuela. Leopoldo Lopez is under house arrest while Henrique Capriles only recently abandoned the Roundtable for Democracy.