Steps Venezuela’s interim government must take – quickly – to survive

Venezuela’s interim government materialized without much apparent organization. Active observation and participation in various coups and revolutions shows what the Juan Guaidó government and its supporters must do immediately. Here are some quick thoughts, not in any particular order:

  • Gain control of at least one branch of the armed forces, and police units at any regional or municipal level possible.
  • Organize a citizen-led occupation of all airports. Encourage masses of people to park vehicles on runways to prevent aircraft from landing or taking off – and to make way for flights that will benefit the new government.
  • Round up all Cuban personnel. If you don’t, they will cause you endless trouble. Interrogate them, put them on trial, use them as bargaining chips – but don’t let them go.
  • Take over the SEBIN security service. This is the nerve center of the Maduro regime.
    • Cut off all electric power, gas, communications, and water from all SEBIN facilities.
    • Do not let SEBIN personnel in or out.
    • Arrest the top two ranks of SEBIN officers at national, regional, and city levels. Citizens’ arrests are OK.
    • Allow senior SEBIN officers to defect if they cooperate in taking control of their underlings.
    • Give most SEBIN personnel on payroll as long as they are loyal to the new government.
    • Reward defectors and informers who turn over SEBIN personnel suspected of the worst abuses.
    • Be tough with those who don’t cooperate, or you’ll end up on their end of the gun.
  • Secure the loyalty of permanent government employees.
    • Remove the top two levels of every bureaucracy, and promote lower level officials to the top. Most of the rest will obey just to keep their jobs.
    • To reduce resistance, reassure all bureaucrats that they need not be fearful if they obey the interim government.
    • Keep all officials on payroll for the interim if they and their leaders are loyal to the interim government.
  • Take control of all “permanent machinery” of the state:
    • Cryptographic equipment and codes (military, SEBIN, diplomatic, etc.),
    • SEBIN archives of informants and repressive apparatus;
    • All bureaucratic files and records;
    • Government personnel and payroll records and systems.
  • Take control of all means of communication: telephone, Internet, radio & TV.
    • Break the connections of those that you cannot control.
    • Create new means of communication that you can control.
  • Block travel routes of regime targets,
    • especially roads and streets between and among official offices, clubhouses, bunkers, and homes.
    • Block airport runways, as described above.
  • Divide the regime against itself.
    • Provide amnesty and incentives for certain regime figures and their families.
      • It’s unpleasant, but you want to win with minimal humanitarian suffering.
    • Force regime figures to betray one another, or otherwise sell one another out.
      • This is Venezuela! Infighting is the national sport.
  • Request international assistance.
    • Ask the British government to lock down Venezuela’s gold reserves held in London.
    • Request urgent international humanitarian aid – especially basic food and medicine. Don’t be afraid to withhold food and medicine from hostile forces and hostile civilians. Incentivize cooperation.
    • Seek special support to round up Cuban, Iranian, Hezbollah, ISIS, and other foreign personnel in Venezuela.
  • Document EVERYTHING.
    • Let everyone know of your progress, and your popular support.
    • Show every victory, small and large.
    • Expose the weaknesses and crimes of the regime and regime targets.
    • Save evidence for future trials.

About J. Michael Waller

J. Michael Waller is Vice President for Government Affairs at the Center for Security Policy. His areas of concentration are propaganda, political warfare, psychological warfare, and subversion.

Dr. Waller is the former Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school in Washington, DC.

A former instructor with the Naval Postgraduate School, he is an instructor/lecturer at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg.

He is a founding editorial board member of NATO’s  Defence Strategic Communications journal.

He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the George Washington University, was the first John M. Olin Fellow at the Center for Defense Journalism at Boston University, where he received his Master’s in international relations and communication; and holds a PhD in international security affairs from Boston University, where he was an Earhart Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology, and Policy under Professor Uri Ra’anan.

An adaptation of his doctoral dissertation was published as Secret Empire: The KGB In Russia Today (Westview, 1994), in which he warned of the rise of a KGB-gangster state in Russia and predicted the rise of a KGB officer to control Russia.