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Venezuela crisis: Why hasn't Maduro arrested Guaido yet?

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Venezuela crisis: Why hasn't Maduro arrested Guaido yet?
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Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS
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The last call for a political uprising from opposition leader Juan Guaido has led experts in international politics to ask why the National Assembly chief hasn’t yet been arrested.

“At another moment in the life of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, an opposition leader with these characteristics would have been imprisoned, dead, exiled, or who knows where,” Carlos Malamud, a researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute told Euronews.

Malamud said that other opposition figures, such as Henrique Capriles, Fredy Guevara, and Leopoldo Lopez, were detained almost immediately to stop any political damage.

According to the political analyst, Maduro has had various opportunities to arrest Guaido, like when he proclaimed himself interim president of Venezuela or when he defied orders to not leave the country.

In fact, a few days after assuming the presidency of the National Assembly, he was detained in a highway near Caracas but let go a few hours later.

For Malamud, the fact that Guaido continues to be free comes down to two reasons: internal and external pressure and Maduro's dependence on the army's backing.

“It is obvious that Guaido’s imprisonment would seriously escalate the situation, the parties positions and international support would become more complicated and negotiation margins would be significantly reduced. This could obviously lead to a more unpredictable and less controllable situation,” he said.

That can be the only reason why Guaido still walks free after a day like April 30. This would also explain why Maduro took so long to respond and did so via Twitter.

“In a normal situation, there would’ve been an immediate response after Lopez’ liberation. Lopez would’ve been placed back in house arrest and Guaido would’ve been arrested.”

The unknown world of ‘Operation Liberty’

But the fact that Guaido hasn’t been arrested so far isn’t the only question troubling political analysts.

Nobody knows whether Guaido’s call to the army failed or succeeded.

For the expert, it’s clear that there were talks between the opposition and high army officials, which may have been endorsed by the United States.

But it’s also evident that there were a series of broken promises by military figures close to Maduro, which puts into question the professionalism of the negotiations, said Malamud.

“What is happening is that the Venezuelan army is at a crossroads and has to make its own decisions,” adding that the military bloc is likely to make a choice as a unit and not get divided in two.

At the moment they’ve decided to support Maduro but this could change at any moment “because above all it could be a cost-benefit calculation”.

Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

A military government

Maduro’s government is the heir to the Hugo Chavez long military career legacy. Maduro placed army generals at the head of ministries and military personnel as state governors and key sectors of the economy.

Military personnel also get big gains from illegal activities such as the purchase and sale of foreign currency at favourable prices and drug trafficking, said Malamud.

“The main stakeholders in maintaining the regime are the military themselves but they are also very aware what it means to back a government in similar conditions,” he said. “On the one hand, they have a lot to lose, but if the regime continues beyond a certain point they could lose everything.”

What might happen in the next couple of days will be ultimately decided by what the Venezuelan people decide to do, he added.

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