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Leopoldo escapes, chavismo stays

Count us among the suspicious, the incredulous. In early 2019, even before Juan Guaido declared himself interim president of Venezuela, we met with senior officials of the Trump administration. Very early in our meeting words to the effect of "we like Leopoldo" were uttered. I remember it vividly, having thought "oh man... where do we start?" For Leopoldo, before his puppet Guaido became a thing, was already, arguably, the most toxic politician in Venezuela. Alas that was the hope then. Guaido, and his "cese de la usurpación, gobierno de transición y elecciones libres" mantra came only a few days later. Good thing about doing due diligence for clients, is that we are on the record emphatically saying "none whatsoever!" when asked back then what did we make of Guaido's chances. It's been nearly two years. Is the opposition any closer to remove chavismo from power?

Leopoldo, with a lot of help from his friends up north, has been fucking things up ever since. For his own side. In light of impossibility of getting Nicolas Maduro to resign and leave, simply by repeating ad nauseam an unachievable mantra, other "options", such as partnering with the likes of Raul Gorrin, Maikel Moreno, Vladimir Padrino and Cristopher Figuera, were implemented to oust Maduro. Leopoldo's desperation to get to Miraflores must have been at stratospheric levels, to even entertain the thought that Gorrin, Moreno, Padrino and Figuera would do something, anything, to remove the source of their power and wealth. Though ahead they went with the plan, whose only achievement was to move Leopoldo from house arrest to political asylum at Spain's Embassy in Caracas. Guaido, Lopez and co then instructed JJ Rendon, who after a Google search hired an absolute moron that promised to deliver Venezuela from the grip of chavismo. That he was going to do with the help of... none other than Cliver Alcala.

In the meantime, Guaido's "interim presidency" has been a string of political disasters, peppered with corruption scandals involving his closest family and associates. Leopoldo has been, all along, the "power and brains" behind Guaido. Couple of days ago he left for Madrid, sucking all oxygen out of the room. For the remaining of this year, we shall hear endless epics on how he "escaped", his Mandelian struggle, and bladi effing bla. This, of course, will give enough room to Maduro to sit at ease for the remaining of Guaido's Congress period and deflect attention, until he is firmly in command of Venezuela's new elected Congress.

Already, we are told what Leopoldo is to achieve from overseas, that would be what he couldn't do against chavismo for the last 20 years while in Venezuela. Namely, an opposition unified that can really wrestle power from Maduro & co. Good f**** luck with that too.

Spain, has to be said, was in a situation very similar to that of Ecuador's Embassy in London with Julian Assange, i.e. uniquely placed to keep tabs on Leopoldo's every move. It was actually very good, for chavismo, which if annoyed by it could have punished Spain where it hurt, that is with Repsol, Spain's energy conglomerate. As recently as late August, Repsol was still lifting crude from PDVSA. So while the self appointed "leader of the opposition" was "plotting against Maduro" from the Spanish Embassy, Spain's government kept trading with PDVSA, in clear violation of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Pedro Sanchez's continued commercial relations with Maduro could have been due to Spanish government no 2, Pablo Iglesias, who is an employee of chavismo. It could also have been a product of Sanchez's very own ambiguity regarding whether his government recognises, or not, Guaido's "presidency". Former Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who holds sway over Sanchez's socialist government and is also an employee of chavismo, is a known apologist of Maduro. Then there's the network of émigrés to Spain, who after looting Venezuela with the help of chavismo are laundering corruption proceeds in broad daylight, have permeated most circles of power and no Spanish authority even dares to bring them to account.

Rumours of Guaido's "administration" officials having it better than ever, controlling funds they could only wish for in completely unaccountable fashion, must have burned... So Leopoldo arrives in a country where his supporters -like Alejandro Betancourt- live large, totally unencumbered by law enforcement, and all manner of dodgy deals can be cooked without the slightest chance of oversight. Leopoldo's freedom was, yet again, discussed in negotiations where Jorge Rodriguez participated according to sources. Spain is still to investigate / explain what was discussed between Jorge's sister Delcy and minister José Luis Ábalos. In any case, it is reasonable to expect that some fancy-sounding role -libertador or something like that- will be created for Leopoldo.

As per the prospect of seeing Venezuela ruled by anything other than chavismo thanks to Leopoldo, we remain totally unconvinced.

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