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Expand chart
Data: Powell and Thyne, 2019, "Coups d'état, 1950 to Present"; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The world is waiting to see if the Venezuelan military will make a move to depose Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro as pressure from the streets and from foreign capitals grows. If it happens, it would be a truly anomalous event.

The big picture: Coups are becoming far rarer — particularly in Latin America, where there hasn't even been an attempt in nearly a decade, according to data compiled by Jonathan Powell of the University of Central Florida and Clayton Thyne of the University of Kentucky.

Driving the news: 2 men now claim to be Venezuela's president: Maduro and Juan Guaidó, the National Assembly leader whose rationale is that Maduro lacks a democratic mandate and he is next in the line of succession. Guaidó's claim is backed by the U.S. and more than 20 other countries.

  • The kingmaker here is the military. Simply naming oneself president does not constitute a coup, Thyne says. But if the military brass ultimately sides with Guaidó and removes Maduro by force, that would qualify.
  • "We’re looking at who did what to whom," Thyne says of determining what is and is not a coup. "The 'who' has to be an elite member of the state apparatus, oftentimes a general. The 'what' has to be an overt attempt to seize power illegally."

"Coups have become almost extinct in Latin America since the end of the Cold War," Powell says. They're becoming extremely rare in Africa as well.

3 reasons:

  1. The end of the Cold War meant not only that global powers were less likely to be actively fomenting coups, he says, but also that would-be coup plotters couldn’t bank on assistance after taking power.
  2. Democratic and economic development changed the calculus. "Coups are expensive, they're dangerous," Thyne says. "Particularly if you can just wait for the next election."
  3. International organizations like the Organization of American States and the African Union have "set strong precedents that this stuff is not going to be tolerated," Powell says.

The bottom line: The days of opportunistic military officers making a play for power seem to have come to an end. "I think what we’re going to see is that the coups that happen have a pretty strong argument behind them — look at the recent ones in Egypt, Honduras, Venezuela, Zimbabwe — so that the international backlash is limited," says Thyne.

What to watch: Those extreme circumstances typically involve an economic collapse, or crisis of legitimacy. "Coups have obviously become extremely rare, particularly in Latin America. But Venezuela has a lot of the conditions we'd expect if a coup were going to occur," says Powell.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

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Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

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Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.

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Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”