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Juan Guaidó holds a rally last week in Caracas. Photo: Ruben Sevilla Brand/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Trump administration's special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, insisted on Thursday that the fall of Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro is inevitable, and issued yet another call for those supporting the regime to change sides.

The big picture: It has now been 3 months since the U.S. recognized National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president. At that time, the U.S. hoped Venezuela's military would abandon Maduro. President Trump also suggested the U.S. might be ready to back Guaidó with force.

  • Instead, we've seen the suffering of the Venezuelan people deepen, U.S. sanctions escalate and the political stalemate hold.

Speaking to reporters following a speech at the Atlantic Council, Abrams denied that support among Guaidó's backers was wavering, either inside Venezuela or internationally.

  • “More and more Venezuelans are aware of the fact that this regime has absolutely no answers to their problems. Everything is getting worse. We see it most recently with electric power and with water," Abrams said.
  • "There will be no recovery of the economy, there will be no recovery of democracy with this regime. ... It’s just not really conceivable that this regime which is destroying the economy and society of Venezuela will remain in power.”
  • Of the U.S. strategy to bring that about, Abrams said: "every week we do a little bit more," and insisted "a large list of options" remains at Trump's disposal.

Shannon O'Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that Trump's strategy in Venezuela "has come up short," and he now risks "alienating influential players and easy friends alike" with his increasingly hard-line approach in Latin America.

  • O'Neil cites Trump's insistence on keeping the military option alive in Venezuela, disregard for European and Canadian objections over his new Cuba crackdown, and threats to cut aid to ally Colombia for failing to reduce drug trafficking.
  • "Bellicose posturing undermines the laborious work needed to galvanize the international community and pressure the Maduro regime," she writes.

What to watch: Martin Aguirre, editor-in-chief of Uruguay's El Pais newspaper, emails that the situation in Venezuela remains "top news" across South America, but "interest has faded a bit" as Guaidó has failed to make a decisive move.

  • "It's just that people have heard so much about how everything is about to explode, and then it still doesn't happen."
  • "Right now, I guess everyone is waiting to see what the government is going to do once the new sanctions start taking effect and the government runs totally out of resources," Aguirre writes. "Are Russia and China going to come to the rescue again? What's going to be their response?"

Worth noting: The Maduro-Guaidó power struggle is playing out in Washington, in addition to Caracas. 

  • "As the last of Maduro’s diplomats prepared in recent weeks to leave the stately Venezuelan Embassy, nearly a dozen American protesters moved in — and vowed to block Guaidó’s representatives from setting up shop," per the Washington Post.
  • Abrams said the left-wing protestors were "clearly" breaking the law and would be forced to leave. He added that it was "shameful" that any Americans would support the Maduro regime.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Kellyanne Conway's parting power pointers

Kellyanne Conway addresses the 2020 Republican National Convention. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has seen power exercised as a pollster, campaign manager and senior counselor to President Trump. Now that his term in office has concluded, she shared her thoughts with Axios.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in this town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice as a new administration and new Congress settle in.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber's Republican caucus even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

Democrats aim to punish House GOP for Capitol riot

Speaker Nancy Pelosi passes through a newly installed metal detector at the House floor entrance Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats plan to take advantage of corporate efforts to cut funding for Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election results, with a plan to target vulnerable members in the pivotal 2022 midterms for their role in the Jan. 6 violence.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether the Democrats' strategy will manifest itself in ads or earned media in the targeted races or just be a stunt to raise money for themselves. But the Capitol violence will be central to the party's messaging as it seeks to maintain its narrow majorities in Congress.

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