On Monday, Guaido concluded a tour of several right-wing Latin American governments, where he tried to gather support for his attempted coup d'etat against Maduro, who was elected to a second term by a large margin last May in elections in which Guaido did not run.
Guaido's visits to Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador in the last week aimed to gather international support for the forcing of humanitarian aid sent by the United States into the country — aid that was blocked last month due to fears of it being a Trojan horse for arming the opposition.
Following Washington's lead, Guaido has forwarded the narrative of an urgent need in Venezuela for food and medicine, threatening that hundreds of thousands of lives are imperiled without it. However, numerous international organizations, including the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, declined to participate in the aid delivery, saying it had been politicized. Further, several times the aid sent by the US has been openly accepted by Venezuela from China and Russia, countries that support Maduro's government against the US-backed coup.
Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido has announced his planned return to Venezuela. Any threats or acts against his safe return will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community.— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 4, 2019
Guaido's return flouts a travel ban imposed by Caracas on the parliamentarian after his January 23 declaration. US National Security Adviser John Bolton, an energetic supporter of the coup, tweeted Monday that if Maduro had Guaido arrested upon his return, "any threats or acts against his safe return will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community," Sputnik reported.
Noting that Guaido tweeted upon returning to the country that "we enter Venezuela as free citizens," Cohen told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou that "on the other hand, he was denouncing Maduro as a dictator — which, I mean, if he was really a dictator, I think he'd see a harsh reaction to what Guaido is doing, which is essentially conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow the government."
"If we saw Nancy Pelosi trying to reach out to Russia or China to overthrow the Trump administration, I think she'd be sitting in a jail cell. But Juan Guaido is a free man; he's prancing around Caracas right now addressing a crowd of supporters," Cohen noted.
Cohen said while the Maduro government would be perfectly within its rights to arrest Guaido, it was holding back from doing so for fear it would trigger a foreign military intervention in Venezuela. He cited Bolton's tweet Monday as just one example of the threat.
"Guaido is the bait flopping around in the water, and the Trump administration are the fishermen, just hoping Maduro will take a bite. So far he hasn't."
"That's their strategy," Cohen said of the Venezuelan government: "Ignore Guaido. He doesn't really have much of a constituency inside the country; his real constituency is the right-wing governments around Latin America and here in Washington, DC. I don't think he can do a whole lot of damage by himself, and if Maduro basically just lets him ride around on a motorcycle and have these rallies, then he's not able to really do much. The US needs the pretext of some kind of violence against Guaido for foreign intervention."
Cohen warned against the possibility of some kind of false flag operation, saying, "That's something we need to be very wary of. If something indeed were to happen to Guaido, then it's very likely it would automatically be blamed in Western media on Maduro, and the Trump administration would launch into this operation to pin it all on the government before the facts could get out, if this were to happen."
The journalist noted that there wasn't "a definitive figure" on the number of defections from the Venezuelan armed forces to the side of Guaido. The Colombian migration authority reported last Thursday that 567 had defected, but Cohen said that a few hundred is "not that many," noting there are more than 110,000 men under arms in the Venezuelan military.
"Considering the immense pressure that Venezuela is currently under, it's rather small," he said. "But I think the media coverage is hyping up these defections as if a military coup is imminent," he continued, noting the propaganda was "nonstop" where he was in Colombia, "saying the coup is going to happen at any moment."
"That's the only strategy that the US and Guaido have, is to have a military coup from within," he said.
That said, Cohen noted that right now, the situation is at a "stalemate," as the "Venezuelan military is still loyal to Maduro," as are all government ministries, while the opposition remains fragmented.
"The US keeps saying ‘all options are on the table,' but so far, the possibility of military intervention has basically been rejected" by its allies, Cohen noted. "The Lima Group, which is a splinter group from the Organization of American States (OAS), which is very right-wing itself, it even rejected military intervention."
"So the US says all options are on the table, but it's very much alone at that table."