All the while, he keeps blaming outside actors — chiefly, the United States — for his nation's woes. And this weekend, he got even more fuel for his paranoia.
According to my colleagues, officials from the Trump administration met several times with Venezuelan military officers who claimed to be coup-plotting dissenters. The Venezuelans' requests for covert aid were ultimately rebuffed, not least because the Americans were hardly convinced by their entreaties.
"We denounce before the world the United States’ intervention plans and help to military conspirators against Venezuela," tweeted Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela's foreign minister.
The White House rushed to subdue speculation that it wants to intervene. In a statement, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said that “the United States government hears daily the concerns of Venezuelans from all walks of life — be they members of the ruling party, the security services, elements of civil society or from among the millions of citizens forced by the regime to flee abroad."
The statement added: “U.S. policy preference for a peaceful, orderly return to democracy in Venezuela remains unchanged.”
But even were such an adventure now in the works, the new revelations suggest that Washington's allies on the ground would be woefully out of their depth. "The main request of the military plotters was encrypted radios, which they planned to use to communicate among themselves in order to capture Mr. Maduro and his lieutenants," noted the Times. "But the United States never granted the request, and after multiple meetings, the Venezuelans became frustrated. Mr. Maduro’s government has since jailed dozens of the conspirators, though many remain at large."
In an era of smartphones and encrypted apps, the request for radios struck other Venezuelan observers as absurd. “It’s just another reminder that the guys atop the military—our putative saviors—are not only very, very criminal: they’re also painfully stupid,” wrote Francisco Toro of the Caracas Chronicles blog. “A plot that relies on people operating on this level of sophistication will only fail. Which, obviously, the Americans saw right away.”
“It makes no sense to support a military coup in Latin America. They always end badly, but it’s worth listening to these people,” said Adam Isacson, of the Washington Office on Latin America, to The Post. “What is their level of discontent? Do they have broad-based support among the population or are they just a bunch of renegades? Do they have an honest plan to start elections? The military is a black box.”
“He’s remarkable in his lack of appreciation for democratic values and institutions. And I think that’s where some of the greatest damage is being done," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told CNN's Manu Raju last week. "Left to his own accord, our country would look somewhat like Venezuela."