Latin America expert says Maduro, military heading towards a 'showdown'

Latin America expert Lindsay Singleton predicted Tuesday that there could be a showdown brewing between members of the Venezuelan military and President Nicolás Maduro, who is blocking any humanitarian aid from entering the country.

“There’s going to be a showdown on Feb. 23 — either the military will maintain the blockade and not let any of this humanitarian aid in or there may be a breakdown in support for Maduro and some of the aid would be allowed to come in,” Singleton, who previously served as a U.S. foreign service officer in Venezuela from 2010 to 2013, told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball on “Rising.”

Maduro was reelected last May. But Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó has questioned the legitimacy of Maduro's election and declared himself Venezuela’s interim president.

Even though President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE and other world leaders have recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader, Maduro has refused to relinquish control and cut off all emergency aid, including vital medicine and food, from entering the country. That aid is stockpiling on the Venezuelan border. 

Guaidó, meanwhile, has called for nationwide protests on the 23rd in an effort to force Maduro to step down from power. 

Singleton said the blockade “could be real shot at Maduro finally falling.”

“There have been rumors for years about increasing problems with morale within the Venezuelan armed forces,” she said. “You see a few generals come out and defect. You’ve seen their attaché in the U.S. defect and those defections are probably going to continue.”

President Trump on Monday increased pressure on Venezuela military personnel who continue to back Maduro.

During a speech at Florida International University in Miami, Trump warned that Venezuelan military officials are “risking their future” by siding with Maduro.

The president said Venezuelan military personnel have two options: either defect from Maduro's government and side with Guaidó or stay with Madaro. But he warned if Venezuelan military officials choose to stay with Maduro, they will “lose everything.”

Singleton warned that if there wasn't a critical mass of defectors that could lead to a worst case scenario: a prolonged civil conflict as seen in Syria or Libya.

“The worst-case scenario is that you have a Syria or Libya situation in Venezuela where not enough military personnel defect over to the Democratic side and they end up taking arms,” Singleton told Hill.TV. “There could be some sort of civil conflict.”

—Tess Bonn