When Washington recognized Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful president, Trump administration officials clearly hoped that incumbent Nicolas Maduro’s grip on power would not last long. There were reasons for such optimism. The socialist regime’s corruption and grotesque economic mismanagement had reached crisis levels. Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, had transformed Venezuela from one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries into a poverty-stricken horror marked by runaway inflation and severe shortages even of the most basic consumer necessities. Venezuela was the latest exhibit in the museum of socialist calamities. Maduro’s popularity had plunged, and his implementation of ever more autocratic measures to suppress opponents did not help his situation.
The Trump administration’s efforts to get other nations in the Hemisphere to recognize Guaido seemed to be paying off as well. Most governments followed Washington’s lead and rejected Maduro. There were only a few exceptions. Not surprisingly, the Hemisphere’s other radical leftist regimes (those in Cuba and Nicaragua) expressed solidarity with Maduro. And Mexico adopted a position of uneasy neutrality, trying to avoid taking sides in Venezuela’s domestic political feud. On the whole, though, Washington’s diplomatic offensive succeeded in lining-up support for Guaido, not only in the Western Hemisphere, but in Europe and other regions as well.