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Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at a pro-government march in Caracas on May 1. Photo: Lokman Ilhan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Revelations of talks between regime loyalists and the opposition interim government this week left Nicolás Maduro scrambling to close new fissures and raised the risks of further violence and instability in Venezuela.

The big picture: Nearly 30 years after the last Cold War battles in Europe, a similar fight is playing out in Latin America, with Russia propping up a dictator. More than 160 Venezuelans lost their lives during pro-democracy demonstrations in 2017, and the greatest turmoil may still lie ahead.

Where it stands:

  • Maduro's intelligence chief has fled, but there have been few high-level defections from Maduro's government. His loyalists are clearly looking to protect themselves, however, and he can longer guarantee their future.
  • An arrest order was issued for Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo López, who had appeared beside interim president Juan Guaidó after leaving house arrest on Tuesday, but has since sought refuge in the Spanish embassy.
  • National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano was ordered to be arrested Thursday on trumped-up charges of treason and insurrection.

What to watch: When Maduro feels threatened, he lashes out. He could see new churn among loyalists, issue more arrest warrants for interim government leaders, or confront tensions with security forces over any orders to ramp up violence against and oppression of demonstrators.

  • Maduro will likely continue to benefit from foreign backing. Cuban intelligence is deeply embedded in Venezuela’s security apparatus to stamp out dissent. Russian soldiers, arms and military hardware are also providing a lifeline.
  • The Lima Group — Peru, Paraguay, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Canada, Brazil, Argentina — hold an emergency meeting Friday. They have already issued a statement calling on Venezuela's armed forces to show loyalty to Guaidó and rejecting claims his actions are a coup.

The bottom line: The majority of Venezuelans and even Maduro's inner circle are determined to find an end to the crisis. Whatever else happens inside the country, any threats to the safety of interim president Guaidó will be a game-changer for the international community.

Jason Marczak is director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council.

Go deeper

Biden to sign voting rights order to mark "Bloody Sunday" anniversary

President Biden will sign an executive order today, on the 56th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," meant to promote voting rights, according to an administration official.

Why it matters: The executive order comes as Democrats face an uphill battle to pass a sweeping election bill meant, in part, to combat a growing number of proposals introduced by Republicans at the state level that would restrict voter access.

Updated 5 hours ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Pope Francis waving as he arrives near the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (al-Tahira-l-Kubra), in the old city of Iraq's northern Mosul on March 7. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting areas of northern Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq. The purpose of Francis' four-day visit is largely intended to reassure the country's Christian minority, who were violently persecuted by ISIS, which controlled the region from 2014-2017.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."

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