While the US is behaving as if the rise to power of Interim Venezuelan President Juan Guaido can be taken for granted, the situation in the country is very different. Reporters told Sputnik the streets are quiet because the unknown Guaido lacks the charisma to convince people to “take a rubber bullet” for him and his coup attempt.
In comments before the Organization of American States in Washington, DC, Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Maduro's government "illegitimate" and "undemocratic to the core." He rejected Maduro's expulsion of US diplomats as something Maduro no longer had the power to do and said that US diplomatic staff, whom Maduro had given 72 hours to leave the country, would not do so.
Pompeo further announced US readiness to provide $20 million in "humanitarian assistance" to "the people of Venezuela," called on "Venezuelan security forces to ensure the protection of Interim President Guaido's physical integrity and his safety" and referred to "remnant elements of the Maduro regime" who he warned might "repress the peaceful, democratic transition."
However, Thursday night, the US State Department suddenly announced it was withdrawing all non-emergency personnel from the country and put out an advisory to US citizens to leave Venezuela, Sputnik reported.
Radio Sputnik's Loud and Clear spoke with Aline Piva, a journalist and a member of Brazilians for Democracy and Social Justice reporting from Caracas, and Paul Dobson, a writer for VenezuelAnalysis.com who reported from the Venezuelan city of Merida.
Piva told Sputnik that there was a "sense of normality" in Caracas that didn't exist in past coup attempts. "It's not as bad as it was in 2016, which is very interesting because the opposition took a very bold move… but what you can see here is that they don't have the popular strength to keep this up for long."
Dobson said it felt like "the eye of the storm" in Venezuela, telling Sputnik there's "calm on the streets. People are waiting to see what's going to happen; there's definitely a new hurdle, a new situation arising, with the expulsion of the US diplomatic team from Venezuela."
He noted that Guaido has "been in hiding since his self-declaration" Wednesday afternoon. "No one's seen him since; he hasn't made any public statements since; we're not quite sure where he is. It's a very strange attempted coup d'etat, really."
Piva said the calm could indicate two things: either the opposition doesn't have the means to "wreak havoc" like in 2016, or that "they are organized, they have the money, and they have international support." She noted that the most recent round of violence in Caracas "kind of gave us the sense that these were people that were highly trained."
"There is definitely a storm coming here on Sunday," Dobson said, noting that Maduro "should have a plan B" for what to do if the 72-hour deadline expires with US diplomats still in the country.