On Tuesday morning, opposition leaders in Venezuela carried out their boldest attempt yet to wrestle power away from the embattled President Nicolás Maduro. Juan Guaidó, the head of the National Assembly and the self-proclaimed “legitimate president” of Venezuela (who has the backing of over 50 countries, including Brazil and the U.S.), called for an armed national uprising to oust Mr. Maduro.

Protests kicked off in Caracas—sparking confrontations which resulted in four deaths, as of Thursday afternoon—but at the critical moment, security forces impeded Mr. Guaidó from marching on the presidential palace and the coup attempt fizzled out.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Fellow opposition leader Leopoldo López made a surprise public appearance alongside Mr. Guaidó on Tuesday, despite being under house arrest for the last two years. By the afternoon, he was forced to seek refuge in the Spanish embassy and Venezuelan courts have since issued a warrant for his arrest.</span></p> <hr /> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/680189"></div> <p><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazil was not taken aback by the attempted putsch, as officials of the Lima Group (the Latin American multilateral body established in 2017 to negotiate an end to the Venezuelan crisis) were reportedly informed of Mr. Guaidó&#8217;s plans as early as last week. However, they had received assurances that the self-proclaimed Venezuelan president would have the broad support of high-ranking military officials, which was not the case.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The failed coup came as a crushing defeat for Mr. Guaidó, who was unable to mobilize enough popular support or convince the Armed Forces top brass to join his cause. </span></p> <h2>Brazil peeking over the border</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As one of the major powers in the region and part of the first group of nations to come out in support of Juan Guaidó&#8217;s claim to the presidency, Brazil has been watching developments in Venezuela very closely indeed.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On the day of the operation in Caracas, President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted that any action taken by Brazil would be &#8220;decided EXCLUSIVELY by the Brazilian President,&#8221; which behind the scenes was confirmed as a message to the Armed Forces, who are decidedly against any military intervention in Venezuela.</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="pt">A situação da Venezuela preocupa a todos. Qualquer hipótese será decidida EXCLUSIVAMENTE pelo Presidente da República, ouvindo o Conselho de Defesa Nacional. O Governo segue unido, juntamente com outras nações, na busca da melhor solução que restabeleça a democracia naquele país.</p> <p>— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) <a href="https://twitter.com/jairbolsonaro/status/1123332067092324359?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 30, 2019</a></p></blockquote> <p><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, the tweet was also badly received by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rodrigo Maia, who saw it as a threat from the president to go over the heads of Congress. &#8220;In relation to Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s tweet,&#8221; he wrote, &#8220;[the constitution] establishes that it is the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress to authorize any declaration of war by the President.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Bolsonaro is currently refereeing a tug-of-war within his own administration, with the more ideological wing of his government (backed up by philosopher Olavo de Carvalho, Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, and the president&#8217;s own son, Eduardo Bolsonaro) reportedly pushing for the country to take military action. The Armed Forces, however, are dead against the idea.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Internal posturing aside, it appears that Brazil remains set on a non-intervention stance toward its neighbors to the north. On Thursday afternoon, Jair Bolsonaro reaffirmed that the country would not get involved in acts of aggression, but would &#8220;go to the limits&#8221; of Brazilian diplomacy to try and &#8220;re-establish democracy in Venezuela.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazil&#8217;s vice-president, retired Army General Hamilton Mourão, declared earlier the same day that Tuesday&#8217;s putsch attempt &#8220;wasn&#8217;t the best decision&#8221; by Juan Guaidó. &#8220;We speculate that he was afraid of being arrested, or that some elements within the Armed Forces had promised him support,&#8221; said Mr. Mourão, who also declared there was &#8220;no light at the end of the tunnel for Venezuela.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This defeatist tone went against the remarks made by President Bolsonaro on Tuesday, who declared that the Venezuelan opposition hadn&#8217;t suffered a defeat, and that a &#8220;fissure&#8221; had opened up within the military, decaying Nicolás Maduro&#8217;s government.</span></p> <h2>Venezuela hits rock bottom</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It has been over three months since Brazil, alongside 16 other countries, declared its support for the presidential claim of Juan Guaidó and called for the removal of Nicolás Maduro, who won a second term at the start of the year, in an election widely criticized by international observers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The country is in unprecedented collapse, with widespread shortages in supermarkets, gas stations, and pharmacies, and an inflation rate hurtling beyond all control. Some three million Venezuelans have left the country in the last three years, representing a whopping ten percent of the population. A Gallup poll held at the end of January showed that 39 percent of Venezuelans wanted to permanently leave the country, a rate which has jumped 14 percentage points since 2015.

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BY Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall is a Scottish journalist living in São Paulo. He is co-author of A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.