Everything You Need To Know About The Crisis In Venezuela
Not so long ago Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America. It had a strong economy and a democratic government. But the recent crisis has sent the country spiraling out of control.
For many years the public has been growing angry at the level of corruption in government. But now that much of the country has been plunged into poverty, many are trying to take matters into their own hands.
Some Venezuelans are giving up on the country altogether, with as many as three million fleeing as refugees. Others are banding together to bring about change by overthrowing the current government and president.
How did the crisis begin?
The dire state of Venezuela’s economy and the government is a result of several contributing factors. First off, oil prices dropped, which was a blow to the then-successful Venezuelan economy.
So when oil prices fell, Venezuela suddenly found itself in economic hardship, after many years of standing as one of South America’s richest countries. Food and drug shortages began, and by the end of 2018 the country’s annual inflation rate was 80,000%.
The increasingly disastrous economy and living conditions have caused the people to turn to their government. President Maduro had overseen the economic downfall, and his decision to solve problems by simply printing more money only made matters worse and caused hyperinflation. So the President’s popularity hit rock bottom.
But despite the widespread dissatisfaction, Maduro won the re-election in May – an election many are now considering as rigged and so protests began, and it became clear that corruption was undermining democracy.
As a result, oppositions figures and groups started to emerge, promising change. This was when the spotlight fell on Juan Guiadó. He emphasized the illegitimacy of the current government and put forward the idea of a temporary government, which he would rule.
How did Venezuela end up with two presidents?
Much of the drama in Venezuela started to unravel in January 2019. Maduro’s inauguration took place on the 10th January, but as public discontent continued to rise, Juan Guiadó declared himself interim president.
But many were confused as to how a 35-year old man can simply declare himself the president of a country.
It all comes down to the fact that Guiadó was head of the National Assembly. Venezuela’s constitution states that if the president fails at their duties, then the head of the National Assembly takes over as acting president.
So to challenge Maduro’s power, Guiadó used the questionability of the election to his advantage, to invoke article 233, so that he could position Maduro as a usurper. As a result, Venezuela now has two presidents claiming to be in control.
Reactions to Venezuela’s two presidents
In many ways, Guiadó has become the voice of the people. But by no means is his support unanimous.
There are still those who support Maduro’s presidency. In fact, Maduro has many supporters in the Supreme Court who earlier this week ruled that any actions led by Guiadó are null and void.
Maduro has also received a lot of international support, despite the Trump Administration backing Guiadó. Russia, Turkey, and China have all stood by Maduro, and condemned Trump’s interference.
Meanwhile, the French, English and German governments, as well as some right-leaning South American governments (including Brazil, Columbia, and Argentina), have expressed support for Guiadó.
Where does the U.S. stand on the matter?
The Trump Administration has taken an active interest in Venezuela’s future, openly supporting Guiadó. Vice President Mike Pence spoke on behalf of the U.S., offering ‘unwavering support…as you, the people of Venezuela raise your voices in a call for freedom’. Pence’s speech made it clear that in the eyes of the US, Maduro is a dictator, and Guiadó is the only democratically elected candidate.
Trump later also issued a statement showing his support for Guiadó. Whilst Trump already opposed Maduro’s government, even before the crisis, his support for Guiadó has caused Maduro to lose even more international legitimacy.
However, this has caused Maduro to break off Venezuela-US relations, giving US diplomats 72 hours to leave Venezuela.
What happens now?
The Venezuelan crisis has left the country divided. It’s a conflict that’s attracted the attention not just of the US, but of governments all over the world, with many keen to see the conflict resolved. One thing’s for certain, the country can’t continue with two rival presidents.
But exactly how does Venezuela reach a solution, with two opposing figures claiming to be in charge?
The long story short is that all of the simplest solutions involve Maduro stepping down, or being removed from power. In this case, Guiadó would be acting president for the foreseeable future, until he or another suitable candidate could be officially elected.
However, if Maduro refuses to step down, it’s hard to say what might happen. Guiadó might be popular, but he’s unlikely to win over the military support that he would need to actively force Maduro out of power.
The Venezuelan military largely consists of Maduro supporters, thanks to Maduro allowing the military to take control of black marketeering and several important industries. He also promoted several thousands of soldiers for loyalty.
Many are looking to the US to lead the way forward by working with Guiadó, but with the crisis having drawn so much international attention, this would be a controversial move.
In conclusion, the Venezuelan crisis has been a long time coming since the crash in oil prices in 2014. The country’s economic downfall worsened over several years after the glory days of President Chavez. But whilst the country’s decline was a gradual one, Venezuela needs a speedy solution to the conflict.
It seems the vast majority of Venezuelans are unhappy with Maduro as president, but the road to his resignation looks like a rocky one. With both Maduro and Guiadó sticking to their guns, it looks as though intervention, perhaps the US, might be the only way forward.