A Tumultuous 24 Hours in Caracas

(Bloomberg) --

President Nicolas Maduro has held on to power in Venezuela after surviving the boldest attempt yet by the embattled opposition to topple his authoritarian regime.

Yesterday started with opposition leader Juan Guaido freeing the country’s most famous political prisoner and calling on citizens and security forces to reclaim control of the nation. It ended with clashes and violence in Caracas and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claiming Maduro had been prepared to flee to Cuba, but was convinced to stay by Russian officials.

It’s now clear both sides lack a strong grasp on their support base within the armed forces. Equally problematic is the realization the Trump administration, which has imposed sanctions on Maduro's government and has backed Guaido, seems to have expected the opposition leader was finally going to assume power.

With Maduro still in control of the streets, highways, airwaves and Internet, the immediate future for Guaido's push is uncertain.

And as some of his high-profile supporters seek refuge in the Chilean Ambassador’s residence in Caracas, the risk is ordinary Venezuelans find themselves as pawns in a bigger geopolitical game — with some of the world’s most powerful nations sparring for influence over what is left of this once-wealthy nation’s resources.

A Tumultuous 24 Hours in Caracas

Global Headlines

Mueller v. Barr | Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrote Attorney General William Barr to express his frustrations about how Barr characterized his findings regarding whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice. The Justice Department confirmed the missive before Barr’s testimony before a Senate panel today. Mueller said Barr’s four-page summary of his report created “public confusion” about important aspects of his 22-month probe.

  • Follow live coverage of Barr's testimony online here.

Green enough? | Nancy Pelosi is trying to head off her party’s restive progressive wing and shepherd through a vote this week on legislation that would prohibit the Trump administration from pulling out of the Paris climate agreement. But as Ari Natter reports, the House speaker’s measure falls well short of the ambitions of the Green New Deal championed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Out of moves | Theresa May wants to wrap up Brexit talks with the opposition Labour Party — with or without a deal — by next week, and is desperate make progress before European Parliament elections at the end of the month. But the price of a compromise is likely to be a customs union with the European Union, a condition regarded by many in the U.K. prime minister's Conservative Party as not really Brexit at all. After almost three weeks of public silence, May faces sustained questioning from lawmakers today.

No easy exit | Afghanistan’s government is making no headway in rolling back territory controlled by the Taliban, even as the Trump administration tries to negotiate a peace agreement that would let the U.S. withdraw troops after 18 years of war. Afghan army casualty rates and increased civilian deaths at the hands of American and Afghan forces are all preventing President Ashraf Ghani’s government from breaking a stalemate with the Taliban.

Center force | With nationalism on the march across Europe, Slovakia’s prime minister is positioning himself for next year’s election as a “bastion against extremism” who can keep the euro-area nation in the mainstream. Peter Pellegrini will meet Trump Friday to discuss tariffs — an existential issue for the country that’s the fifth-largest exporter of cars to the U.S., including Porsche Cayennes and Volkswagen Touaregs.

What to Watch

  • The White House is preparing to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization, a move that would impose economic and travel sanctions against the group.

  • Yellow Vest protesters are planning to join unions and political parties for annual May 1st demonstrations in Paris and other cities, along with anarchist and ultra-right activists — making this a potentially explosive day in France.

And finally... The Eurovision song contest, to be held in Tel Aviv later this month, is again mired in political political. Palestinian supporters, including former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, have called for a boycott of the show over Israel’s decades-long occupation of the Palestinian Territories. That's sparked a counter-petition signed by, among others, Israeli-born bassist Gene Simmons of Kiss. The competition is no stranger to controversy. Its 2016 winner — a Ukrainian artist whose song evoked Russia’s deportation of members of her Crimean ethnic group during World War II — sparked renewed tensions between the two countries.

A Tumultuous 24 Hours in Caracas

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