Coo-Coo Ca-Coup

 

venezuela-politics

Not this time, Juanito.

H/t to David Redpath for bringing this to my attention… text is from The Atlantic, via Defense One.

It seems to me that the more obvious it becomes that this is a gringo plot to place a glove puppet at the top, the more resistance they are going to get from ordinary Venezuelans… who are hungry, poor, ill and literally in the dark but don’t want to bend a knee.

This article mentions the US oil embargo and other economic sanctions; it does not mention the acts of the Bolsonaro regime which has also been pretty upfront about its alliance with the US to throttle the government.(https://www.businessinsider.com/brazils-bolsonaro-says-working-with-us-to-sow-dissent-in-venezuela-army-2019-4)

What lies ahead? Certainly more misery and chaos, and possibly a civil war along with national collapse. Here is a link to a good bit in Foreign Policy about the weapons sloshing around in Venezuela right now, including 5,000 Igla-S MANPADs. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/02/venezuela-is-armed-to-the-hilt/

How an Elaborate Plan to Topple Venezuela’s President Went Wrong

The United States thought all the pieces were in place for Maduro to leave. Then everything came crashing down.

In the effort to topple Nicolás Maduro, Colombia’s ambassador to the United States once told me, the military men propping up Venezuela’s authoritarian president are like chess pieces.

If they defect from the regime, “you lose that chess piece,” Francisco Santos explained. “They work better from the inside.”

As Tuesday, April 30, began, the United States and its allies thought they finally had checkmate, after months of building up the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president and recruiting more than 50 nations to their cause.

By the end of the day, the board had been flipped upside down, pieces were scattered everywhere, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on CNN blaming the kingmakers, Russia and Cuba, for sabotaging the game.

Donald Trump’s administration has at the same time continued issuing warnings to Maduro and his associates, though it’s unclear what effect they will actually have or whether they will save Guaidó. (In the latest sign that major U.S. actions could still be in the offing, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has canceled a trip to Europe in order to coordinate with the National Security Council and State Department on Venezuela.)

Maduro’s airplane was on the tarmac and he was prepared to depart for Cuba on Tuesday morning, but “the Russians indicated he should stay,” the U.S. secretary of state revealed. (The Russians have disputed this account.) The Cubans, he added, are “protecting this thug” and are “at the center of this malfeasance.”

Earlier in the day, National Security Adviser John Bolton had declared that the upheaval in Venezuela was “clearly not a coup.” What has since become clearer is that it amounted to a botched attempt to replace the Maduro government from within.

With the elaborate, out-of-control bid for regime change in Latin America, the U.S.-Russia proxy struggle, and the intrigue involving shadowy Cuban forces, it was as if the world had suddenly been seized by a live experiment in what the Cold War would have been like had it played out on Twitter. (Bolton’s coup comment, after all, came in response to a reporter’s question about whether the Trump administration was providing any support to Maduro’s challengers beyond “tweets of support,” a query Henry Kissinger never fielded back in the day.)

Tuesday started with Guaidó posting a video on Twitter at dawn of him at a military air base—flanked by soldiers and the imprisoned opposition figure Leopoldo López, apparently freed by security forces from house arrest—announcing the “final phase of Operation Freedom” in partnership with Venezuela’s “main military units,” ahead of planned protests on May 1.

This, it turned out, would be the high point of the day for Guaidó’s pro-democracy movement.

Bedlam, not freedom, ensued. Maduro officials accused Guaidó and fringe elements of the military of staging a coup, as opponents and supporters of Maduro clashed violently in the streets.

Within hours, dozens of people returned to the site to threaten a “complete embargo” and “highest-level sanctions” on Cuba if “Cuban Troops and Militia do not immediately CEASE military and other operations” in Venezuela.

As Operation Freedom went sideways, U.S. officials began divulging details of an effort that had gone spectacularly wrong.

After months of hinting coyly that Maduro’s support within the military was more wobbly than it seemed, Bolton named three top Venezuelan officials—Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino; Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno; and the commander of the presidential guard, Iván Rafael Hernández Dala—who he claimed had been engaged in lengthy talks with the Venezuelan opposition and had “all agreed that Maduro had to go,” only to renege this week (at least so far) on their commitments to facilitate a democratic political transition.

In a tweet addressed to the three men, Bolton suggested that the terms of the deal had been to help remove Maduro from power in exchange for amnesty from Guaidó and the lifting of U.S.sanctions against them. (Pompeo even implied that the Trump administration was involved in the negotiations, noting that “senior leaders” in Maduro’s government had “told us” they “were prepared to leave … over the past few weeks.”)

On Wednesday, in an interview with the radio host Hugh Hewitt, Bolton outlined how the plan was supposed to work. The senior officials and Guaidó would sign documents memorializing their agreement. The Venezuelan Supreme Court would declare Maduro’s Constituent Assembly illegitimate and thereby legitimize the Guaidó-led National Assembly. Military leaders like Padrino would then have the political and legal cover to take action against Maduro.

Yet “for reasons that are still not clear, that didn’t go forward yesterday,” Bolton admitted. (Another senior official, the head of Venezuela’s intelligence service, did in fact split with Maduro, according to U.S. officials.)

Speaking with reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Bolton offered one theory for why the plan never came to fruition: The Cuban government had prevailed on the three officials to stick with their boss. Fear of the tens of thousands of Cuban security forces in the country, he argued, is keeping military officials in check.

On television and Twitter on Tuesday, the defense minister repeatedly backed Maduro. But by ratting out Padrino and the other officials, and thus exposing them to Maduro’s retribution, U.S. officials seemed to be deliberately sowing dissension and mistrust in the upper echelons of the Maduro government—as a means of deepening its dysfunction and pressuring top officials to move against Maduro before he moved against them.

As the Republican Senator Marco Rubio, an wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, “high ranking #MaduroRegime officials must now deal with the realization that despite their tweets of support &appearance with #Maduro on TV last night he knows they plotted against him. If Maduro remains in power what do you think their future holds?” Just in case his point was too subtle, Rubio appended an image of a scene from The Godfather in which Michael Corleone lashes into his brother Fredo for betraying him, before ordering his assassination.

Guaidó, for his part, seems undaunted and told Hewitt, “I just don’t believe President Trump is prepared to see foreign governments effectively take over the control of Venezuela, which possesses the largest reserves of petroleum in the world.”

But after playing some of its best chess pieces and coming up empty, the U.S. government is running low on ways to counter such escalations and boot Maduro from Caracas.

Despite administration officials’ ominous mantra that “all options are on the table” in Venezuela, they appear to have little appetite for taking military action, even as Cuba and Russia told lawmakers that the military has not been given orders to prepare for war in Venezuela.

The United States has also already deployed its most powerful economic weapon against the Maduro government—a de facto oil embargo—and is now resorting to dribbling out additional sanctions with diminishing returns.

Ahead of more anti-Maduro demonstrations on Wednesday, Bolton tried to put a rosy spin on Tuesday’s tumultuous events. Maduro’s support within the military has cratered and his support among the Venezuelan public is nonexistent, he argued, forcing the Venezuelan president to desperately cling to Cuba, a cadre of corrupt officials, and paramilitary groups known as colectivos.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged that if the campaign to dethrone Maduro fails, Venezuela could “sink into a dictatorship from which there are very few possible alternatives.”

The results of that campaign at the moment—something utterly unsettled, halfway between kleptocracy and democracy—were on display in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday at the Venezuelan embassy. Pro-Maduro activists affiliated with Code Pink and other groups, who had occupied the abandoned building and plastered it with messages denouncing American imperialism and regime change, confronted pro-Guaidó protesters across steel barricades and expressionless Secret Service agents. The dueling chants and posters punctuated the confusion of the present moment.

After grabbing a megaphone and denouncing the embassy squatters for siding with Maduro’s repressive rule, Carla Bustillos, a Venezuelan American from Maryland, told me that one stubborn fact was standing in the way of real political change in Venezuela. “You have to understand that the regime holds the arms,” she said, while holding her 1-year-old son, cloaked in Venezuelan-flag clothing, in a baby carrier. “The regime holds the hard power.”

And a few days later we see this. Swell.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/guaido-u-s-military-communications-maduro

Guaido says he’s keeping “all options on the table” to remove Maduro, repeating language used by U.S. President Donald Trump and his chief advisers.

Earlier this week, U.S. Navy Adm. Craig Faller said he would meet with Guaido when invited to discuss the future role of Venezuela’s armed forces.

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On my tapedeck

This has been in heavy rotation on my kitchen tapedeck recently (yes, I have this on a creaky old cassette, the same program on both sides).

Almost 30 years later, and the locale of concern has shifted just a bit to the south.

On the same cassette, one of my favourite versions of the Ol’ Standard – Billy’s rewrite:

“Maduro?” “Guaido!”

caudillo-cover-2

A curious development.

Opposition Leader Juan Guaido took an oath swearing himself in as Venezuela’s interim president on Wednesday, as hundreds of thousands marched to demand the end of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro’s government.

Guaido, head of the Opposition-run Congress, had said he would be willing to assume the presidency on an interim basis with the support of the armed forces to call elections.

Within minutes, Global Affairs confirmed Canada will recognize Guaido in the role. U.S. President Donald Trump issued a statement doing the same, and encouraging other Western governments to recognize Guaido as interim president.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/venezuela-president-protest-guaido-maduro-1.4989733

Emphasis added, by me of course. Sinister promptitude and all that. The Latin American countries with right-wing governments (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Paraguay and Peru) also recognized Guaido.

We don’t know yet which way the Venezuelan military will jump… and of course there is a difference between the professional military, and the paramilitary forces that were set up under Chavez and have not been disarmed. Again, they may be pushing up against a civil war, or continued disorder at the very least.

Caudillo now available for free PnP

 

Off to Consimworld Expo 2018!

lawrncoarabia_032pyxurz

Best cut in cinematic history.

So, very early tomorrow we take off for a week and change in Tempe Arizona, to attend Consimworld Expo 2018. This convention gets bigger every year, there will be at least 275 hardcore gamers there this time.

I am taking lots of things with me, to show and/or test with people:

The Brief Border Wars quad:

Four minigames on border conflicts. Uses a development of the system in The Little War. Pretty much done testing but they are fun and short. El Salvador-Honduras 1969, Turkey-Cyprus 1974, China-Vietnam 1979, Israel-Hezbollah 2006.

Thunder out of China:

4-player COIN system for China 1937-41, I got this one to the 50% mark in 2015 but had to stop due to the need to finish off Colonial Twilight. Event Deck needs work as do a few tuneups. This will be a different twist on the COIN system but only slightly; twist of emphasis, not addition of mechanics.

The District Commander quad:

What, am I bringing back the Quadrigame? This is a diceless system of counterinsurgency at the operational level that I have been working on for a few years. Standard rules are rather long but they are “chatty”, the system is pretty simple and there are lots of possible options/ variations on play; each set of module exclusive rules is written as additions and exceptions to the standard rules.

Four modules: Mascara (Algeria 1959); Binh Dinh (Vietnam 1969); Kandahar (Afghanistan 2009); Maracas (imaginary megacity 2019). Modules feature things like population resettlement, airmobility, insurgent logistics, Agent Orange, monsoon rains, Phoenix Program, non-state militias, criminal gangs, insurgent command nodes, informers, sabotage, etc..

Caudillo:

Multi-player game on Latin American power politics, this brings up the tension between cooperation and competition. Not testing but CSW is a good place to try and snag people for multi-player games (3-5).

We Are Coming, Nineveh

Something new, not my design but I am helping on its development and need some playtester input. Designed by two graduate students of Rex Brynen, a Political Science professor at McGill University in Montreal who uses games in his classes a lot. This is their first essay into game design and it’s good enough that Rex and I are helping on its development for commercial publication.

It is an operational-level game of the Iraqi government campaign to liberate the western half of the city of Mosul from the forces of Daesh between 19 February and 9 July 2017. This was one of the largest and most difficult urban operations of the post-WWII era, and marked a major defeat for Daesh and its so-called “Islamic State.”

Area-movement map of west Mosul, including the densely-built Old City where Daesh forces made their last stand. Unit scale is groups of 100 or so Daesh fighters each, or battalion-sized units of the Iraqi Army, Ministry of the Interior, and elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS). Time scale is about 2 weeks/turn but this is flexible, and not that important. Blocks for both sides, to maintain uncertainty and the “fog of war.”

Capability cards: Before the operation starts, players choose a number of special capability cards. Gives great replayability.

Also during each turn, event cards can be triggered at any time by either player. Some of these indicate the growing collateral damage done to the city and its people. Others generate tactical vignettes: troops can get lost in the maze of small streets, communications can break down, and commanders can be faced with difficult moral and operational choices.

Victory: Unlike most wargames where there is a single measure for victory or loss, the game assesses three key aspects of the campaign: the speed at which the operation is completed, the casualties suffered by Iraqi government forces, and the collateral damage done to Mosul. One might outperform the historical case, capturing the Old City faster—but at a terrible civilian cost.

Going to be HOT and sunny, every day!

I may post from there, probably not as I will be working off a tablet with a tiny keyboard that is an exercise in patience to use.

Be good to each other while I’m gone.

Springtime in Caracas

CP Cover

Civil Power for a tactical examination of the situation.

caudillo-cover-2

Caudillo for an operational, pol-mil look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/venezuelan-anti-government-protests-leaves-3-dead-1.4076408

Three dead yesterday, bringing the total to eight. Pro-government armed groups threatening and sniping at marching protesters, while the police and military deal with any heavy-duty confrontations. Arrests of real or imagined “coup plotters”. Economic and industrial chaos spins further out of control.

This looks bad, and it’s going to get worse, even if (or especially if) Maduro leaves office, through the door or on it.

Caudillo now available for free PnP

caudillo-cover-2

Cover by John Kula. His last published work.

Several times over the past few years I have mentioned Caudillo (pronounced “caw-DEE-yo“), a 2-5 player card game I designed three years ago on power politics in the fictional Latin American country of Virtualia, after the departure from power of its strongman leader Jesus Shaves (pronounced “hay-sus sha-bezz“).

The game was of course about a thinly-disguised post-Chavez Venezuela (though in 2013 it wasn’t post-Chavez yet), and just to drive it home, its original title was Dios o Federacion, a takeoff on “Dios y Federacion”, the national motto of Venezuela.

I liked working on this game because there is a constant tension within it between competition and cooperation. As players vie to create the largest and most durable personal power base, the card deck delivers more and more crises that players must deal with collectively, or the country will collapse. There are coups, too!

Anyway, I do not think that there will be any time soon that I could find this game a properly professional publisher, with 90 pieces of original card art and high-class production to match. And Venezuela looks as if it is really about to implode, with rampant inflation, riots, political intrigue and so on.

So, as my Christmas present to you all, I am now making the files for Caudillo available for free download and print-and-play (PnP).

The free PnP version consists of 90 cards, 230 counters, and the usual rules and play aids. You print ’em, you cut ’em, you stick ’em or sleeve ’em.

And, just for fun, I will also be making a limited number of hand-made copies of the game for sale too, through BTR Games. Besides the rules and play aids, this version has:

  • 90 cards printed on coloured cardstock and hand-cut;
  • 120 die-cut, pre-punched counters;
  • 120 small coloured wooden cubes;
  • nice cover art by John Kula. His last published work.

Price is $50 US, which includes postage. If you want one of these, let me know at brian.train@gmail.com; I take (and prefer) Paypal.

Here are the files for the free version:

caudillo-pnp-crisis-cards (Crisis cards and Scoring Round cards)

caudillo-pnp-group-cards (Group cards, Personality cards, Sequence of Play reminders)

caudillo-ctrs-pnp191216 (counters)

caudrls-124 (rules and play aid)

caud-pnp-assembly-notes (notes on how to print and assemble the cards and counters)

I hope you will enjoy this game, in either format.

Feliz Navidad!

PS: the game now has a Boardgamegeek entry: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/216686/caudillo

“Things could explode”

venezuela-politics

“Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said last week: ‘I want to tell the armed forces that the hour of truth is coming. You must decide whether you’re with the constitution or Maduro.”

 

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/venezuela-economic-meltdown-pressure-nicolas-maduro-1.3596682

I haven’t had Caudillo out for a look recently; been busy with other things, as you can see. Maybe I should get a move on before the next coup happens.

The thing that’s holding this up is I have had no time to get any art done or arranged for the cards. Mechanics seem fine, it’s an interesting game but no one wants to play with un-artified cards, natch.