The Venezuelan Crisis: An Update On The Stand-Off
Venezuelan crisis has been front page news for quite a while now, especially since the inauguration of President Maduro on 10th January. Rather than consolidate Maduro’s presidency, the inauguration sparked a series of events that led to Venezuela having not one, but two Presidents.
Maduro became President after the death of the much-loved President Chavez who led Venezuela through a golden era, with a stable and thriving economy. Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America, but oil prices took a hit, and Maduro became the President to pull Venezuela out of an economic rut.
But instead of rising up out of the crisis, things only got worse as Venezuela’s economic and social conditions spiraled out of control.
How did Venezuela end up with two presidents?
Maduro’s attempts to control and improve the country’s economic decline only made the situation worse. More money was printed, but this caused inflation to reach 80,000% at the start of the year. And with money becoming worthless, food and drugs stopped being imported, causing severe problems for the Venezuelan people.
Naturally, the people needed change, and that meant heads were already turning away from Maduro when Guiado entered the picture.
Before recently, Guiado was just a Venezuelan politician and President of the National Assembly. But after several months of anti-Maduro campaigns, Guiado has declared himself President.
So for several weeks now, Venezuela has had two Presidents: Maduro, who refuses to stand down, and Guiado, who is determined to invoke article 233 on the basis that Maduro is a ‘usurper’.
How has the situation progressed?
After several weeks of two supposed presidents, the world is waiting eagerly for an outcome. But no real progress has been made in that still, Venezuela is a country divided, with no one leader.
Technically, Maduro is still the official President, because he hasn’t been removed from power. However, support for Guiado is rising in Venezuela, and around the world.
At first, it was doubtful that Guiado would be able to overthrow Maduro because of the President’s military support. Maduro was offering promotions to those that remained loyal, and with the support of the forces, he was almost unbeatable. But with Guiado’s growing support, Maduro’s alliance with the military is likely to become a non-issue for the majority.
Guiado spoke out, encouraging his supporters that the ‘regime has already started to fall’ and that ‘there is no going back’, and it’s definitely hard to see Venezuela proceeding with Maduro as president.
Maduro’s downfall now seems inevitable, if Venezuela is to remain a democratic state that is. The people are widely supporting the President’s opponent, and whilst he seems to be standing his ground, many are hoping to see him overthrown very soon.
Where does the rest of the world stand?
Maduro has openly shunned the US and rejected their aid during this difficult time. He ordered US diplomats to leave the country, believing the entire crisis to be a plot orchestrated by the US to sabotage his Presidency. He initially spoke of severing ties with the US but it seems that’s a decision that’s been reversed.
Nevertheless, it’s no surprise that the Trump Administration stands with Guiado, despite Russia and China backing Maduro. Not only has Trump expressed support for Guiado but they have also spoken personally, and Trump assured support from the US.
Trump has stood by Guiado since the crisis began, supporting and encouraging democracy. The people want Maduro out, and more and more countries are starting to respect that.
Even across the seas in Europe, most European countries have now voiced their support for Guiado. England, France, Germany, France, Spain, Sweden, and Denmark have officially recognized Guiado as the interim President of Venezuela.
The UK’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt also emphasized the opinion in Europe by referring to Maduro as a ‘kleptocratic’ leader violating the Venezuelan people’s human rights.
What does the stand-off mean for Venezuelan people?
The situation in Venezuela is no longer just a case of politics. The stand-off and resulting lack of leadership has left the people in a state of complete uncertainty. Social situations throughout the country are dire, with food shortages and street violence causing many to flee the country as refugees.
The people are looking for a change, but with neither Maduro nor Guiado willing to back down, Venezuela has been left in a state of limbo. And the longer the stand-off continues, the longer the public discontent continues.
The threat of civil war: is it real?
Many are fearful that the tension and international involvement will spark a civil war. The country is thoroughly divided, and with the people fearful and angry, street violence is rapidly increasing. There have been street clashes not just amongst individuals, but amongst groups of people who have been divided by the two presidents.
In addition to the already-existing voilence and division in Venezuela, Trump and Guida have both entertained the idea of the US assisting with taking military action against Maduro.
With Maduro still defending his right to power and refusing to step down, it’s unlikely that military action would be met without retaliation. Maduro still has the majority of the Venezuelan military on-side.
So there’s a lot of controversy surrounding whether the US should choose to invade Venezuela and put in place a democratic government. On the one hand, this would put an end to what could otherwise be a seemingly endless stand-off. However, there is the risk of military action sparking a civil war – an outcome that would cause the Venezuelan people’s situation to go from bad to worse.
A civil war would further the divide, as people would be forced to choose sides. And in terms of living conditions, resources and even basic necessities like food are already scarce without the strain of war.
However, no military action has been decided upon so far, and it’s an outcome that Maduro, Guiado, and Trump would all rather avoid.
Trump was previously advised against taking military action, although he now has a new national security advisor John Bolton who is somewhat more open to military intervention. Also, without the Trump Administration, military action is most likely not an option for Guiado anyway, as the Venezuelan military are largely sided with Maduro.
As for Maduro, despite him having the support and resources of the military he seems to be keen to diffuse tensions, especially between the US and Venezuela. He has warned that the crisis may lead to civil war, but this seemed to be more of a warning than a threat.
Whilst he initially accused the US of orchestrating a plot against him, and ordered US diplomats to leave the country, he later retracted his order to dispel the diplomats.
He stated that ‘everything depends on the level of madness and aggressiveness of the northern empire and its western allies’ and went on to ask that no intervention be made, as Venezuela would then be forced to defend itself.
Guiado disagreed entirely that civil war was even on the table, claiming that the idea was an invention of Maduro’s. But either way, there is no party opting for civil war, it’s an outcome that both Venezuelan presidents and the Trump Administration would rather avoid.