After days of upheaval, Venezuela is sinking back into political stalemate.

In the fourth month of their standoff, President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó are unable to deliver a knock-out blow as Venezuela spirals deeper into neglect, isolation and desperation. Abrupt shifts or behind-the-scenes power plays can’t be ruled out, but there is a sense that the two camps are entrenched — too strong to be dislodged, too weak for clear-cut victory.

So what’s next?

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, center, is seen surrounded by supporters outside La Carlota air base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Lopez, who had been under house arrest for leading an anti-government push in 2014, said he had been freed by soldiers and called for a military uprising. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, center, is seen surrounded by supporters outside La Carlota air base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Lopez, who had been under house arrest for leading an anti-government push in 2014, said he had been freed by soldiers and called for a military uprising. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

The opposition and its chief patron, the United States, emerged with fewer options after Guaidó, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, stood Tuesday outside a military base and urged the armed forces to overthrow Maduro. The plan collapsed. Venezuela’s military commander instead pledged loyalty to Maduro, and four people died in clashes between protesters and police after the opposition’s risky bid for control.

The streets of Caracas were calm on Thursday after the violence of the previous two days. Guaidó’s new plan is to build toward a general strike, though the date is not fixed and how effective that would be in a country with a shattered economy and an exhausted population is open to question.

One Venezuela expert said the opposition and the U.S. now have the hard task of devising a new way forward after seeing a small contingent of security forces join Guaidó outside the military base, but no sign that any other military units had heeded the call to rebel.

Armed, rebel soldiers who are rising up against the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro take cover on an overpass outside La Carlota military airbase where loyal troops are located in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Armed, rebel soldiers who are rising up against the government of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro take cover on an overpass outside La Carlota military airbase where loyal troops are located in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

“You only get to play this card once, and now that it’s been played it’s hard to see what else can be done,” said Fernando Cutz, who until April 2018 led U.S. policy on Venezuela at the National Security Council under both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

At the same time, Maduro’s government is under massive strain, loathed by much of the population as it attempts to steer a decaying nation. The fact that it has not yet moved to arrest Guaidó after accusing him of trying to stage a coup suggests it is not confident enough to do so and is wary about any increase in diplomatic and economic pressure from the U.S. and dozens of other nations that say Guaidó is Venezuela’s rightful president.

Any attempt to detain Guaidó would be “highly inflammatory,” said Eileen Gavin, senior Latin America analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a global risk consultancy.

A Bolivarian National Guard loyal to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro fires tear gas from inside La Carlota air base toward a crowd of a few hundred civilians and a small group of rebel soldiers gathered outside the base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
A Bolivarian National Guard loyal to Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro fires tear gas from inside La Carlota air base toward a crowd of a few hundred civilians and a small group of rebel soldiers gathered outside the base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

“From Maduro’s perspective, it might be better to simply dismiss Guaidó as a mere nuisance and a U.S. stooge, thereby undermining Guaidó’s faltering movement and — once again — splintering the fractious Venezuelan opposition,” Gavin said in a report.

The government has started to target people since the failed rebellion. On Thursday, Venezuela’s top court ordered the arrest of Guaidó’s political mentor, Leopoldo López, who took refuge in the Spanish Embassy after defying a house arrest order and joining the attempt to topple Maduro this week. The court also opened a treason investigation of Edgar Zambrano, the deputy head of the National Assembly who had joined Guaidó outside the military base in Caracas.

Some analysts believe U.S. allegations that three top Venezuelan officials had been involved in the plot against Maduro will not split his government, but tie those officials closer to him. One of the government figures, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, pledged loyalty to Maduro and indicated that there had been attempts to lure the military into backing the opposition.

Supporters of Venezuela’s opposition leader and self proclaimed President Juan Guaidó carry signs that read in Spanish
Supporters of Venezuela’s opposition leader and self proclaimed President Juan Guaidó carry signs that read in Spanish “No more dictatorship” and “Out with the dictatorship” during a demonstration in Panama City, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

“They try to buy us as if we were mercenaries,” he said in what amounted to a warning to any would-be defectors in the military.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry as well as on key figures in Maduro’s government, which is digging in despite dire economic and humanitarian problems that have forced around 10% of Venezuelans to leave the country in recent years, creating Latin America’s biggest migrant crisis.

Cutz said that while it’s likely the U.S. will ramp up rhetoric against Maduro’s government, it has already deployed the key weapon — oil sanctions. Its last options include the long-threatened idea of military intervention, which is unlikely, or moving onto another foreign policy priority, according to Cutz.

An anti-government protester dressed as Lady Liberty, wearing the colors of Venezuela's flag, hugs a fellow protester during a demonstration near La Carlota airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó is calling for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country Wednesday to demand President Nicolás Maduro's ouster. Maduro is also calling for his supporters to rally. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
An anti-government protester dressed as Lady Liberty, wearing the colors of Venezuela’s flag, hugs a fellow protester during a demonstration near La Carlota airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

“It seems more like a temper tantrum than strategic thinking,” he said of the bellicose rhetoric coming out of the White House. “If I’m a low-level colonel, why would I now risk my life to share secrets with the Americans if they aren’t going to keep their mouths shut.”

Trump has indicated that the United States is not focusing on a military option for now.

“And we’re doing everything we can do, short of, you know, the ultimate,” Trump said in an interview Wednesday on Fox Business Network. “There are people that would like to do — have us do the ultimate, but we are – we are – we have a lot of options open. But when we look at what’s going on there, it’s an incredible mess.”

Venezuelans rally in front of a poster of Opposition leader Juan Guaido during a protest in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Opposition leader Juan Guaido is calling for Venezuelans to fill streets around Venezuela Wednesday to demand President Nicolas Maduro's ouster. Maduro is also calling for his supporters to rally. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Venezuelans rally in front of a poster of Opposition leader Juan Guaido during a protest in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul White)

Trump said Maduro was “tough, but I think he’s losing a lot of control.”

___

National security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters outside the White House about Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
National security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters outside the White House about Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Supporters holds Venezuelan and U.S. national flags as they listen to opposition leader Juan Guaidó speak during a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Guaidó called for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country Wednesday to demand President Nicolas Maduro's ouster. Maduro is also calling for his supporters to rally. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Supporters holds Venezuelan and U.S. national flags as they listen to opposition leader Juan Guaidó speak during a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Guaidó called for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country Wednesday to demand President Nicolas Maduro’s ouster. Maduro is also calling for his supporters to rally. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
An anti-government protester launches a molotov cocktail at National Guard forces outside La Carlota airbase during clashes between the two sides in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Opposition leader Juan Guaido called for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country Wednesday to demand President Nicolas Maduro's ouster. Maduro is also calling for his supporters to rally. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
An anti-government protester launches a molotov cocktail at National Guard forces outside La Carlota airbase during clashes between the two sides in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Opposition leader Juan Guaido called for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country Wednesday to demand President Nicolas Maduro’s ouster. Maduro is also calling for his supporters to rally. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Anti-government protesters fill a street during clashes with security forces near La Carlota airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country Wednesday to demand President Nicolás Maduro's ouster. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Anti-government protesters fill a street during clashes with security forces near La Carlota airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country Wednesday to demand President Nicolás Maduro’s ouster. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
A security forces armed vehicle burns after it was set on fire by anti-government protesters, front, near La Carlota airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country Wednesday to demand President Nicolás Maduro's ouster. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
A security forces armed vehicle burns after it was set on fire by anti-government protesters, front, near La Carlota airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country Wednesday to demand President Nicolás Maduro’s ouster. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
An anti-government protester who collapsed after being overcome by teargas is helped by fellow demonstrators during clashes with security forces, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country Wednesday to demand President Nicolás Maduro's ouster. Maduro is also calling for his supporters to rally. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
An anti-government protester who collapsed after being overcome by teargas is helped by fellow demonstrators during clashes with security forces, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country Wednesday to demand President Nicolás Maduro’s ouster. Maduro is also calling for his supporters to rally. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
In this handout photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, center, attends a meeting with troops at Fort Tiuna in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Flanked by commanders, Maduro said Thursday that the military must be prepared to combat
In this handout photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, center, attends a meeting with troops at Fort Tiuna in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Flanked by commanders, Maduro said Thursday that the military must be prepared to combat “traitors”, two days after opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for the military to turn against Maduro. (Jhonn Zerpa/Miraflores Press Office via AP)
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez walks to gate of the Spanish ambassador's residence in Caracas to speak with the press, in Venezuela, Thursday, May 2, 2019. López said he expects that the country's military will step up to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro despite setbacks. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez walks to gate of the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas to speak with the press, in Venezuela, Thursday, May 2, 2019. López said he expects that the country’s military will step up to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro despite setbacks. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
An anti-government protester lights a candle during a vigil for a victim killed during protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Maduro called for military unity in an early Thursday morning appearance with soldiers at Fort Tiuna military base, two days after opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for the military to turn against Maduro. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
An anti-government protester lights a candle during a vigil for a victim killed during protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Maduro called for military unity in an early Thursday morning appearance with soldiers at Fort Tiuna military base, two days after opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for the military to turn against Maduro. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó told Fox Business Network's Trish Regan Primetime that his country's armed forces are listening to the opponents of President Nicolas Maduro. (May 2)
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó told Fox Business Network’s Trish Regan Primetime that his country’s armed forces are listening to the opponents of President Nicolas Maduro. (May 2)