Venezuela Crisis: Nicolás Maduro, Juan Guaidó and The Presidential Power Tussle

Alao Abiodun
20% Complete
 02-Feb-2019

For the past few weeks, Venezuela’s political crisis has continued to stem up violent protests and growing concern due to the subtle efforts by the opposition to unseat the socialist president, Nicolás Maduro.

According to research, Venezuela as a nation over the years has been faced with persistent hyperinflation, political instability and shortages of food and medicine. Venezuela which is one of Latin America’s richest countries, is now plagued with shortages of everything.

President Maduro started a second term on January 10 following a widely-boycotted election last year that many foreign governments refused to recognise. Similarly, Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president.

Shortly after Juan Guaido took an oath swearing himself in before his supporters, US President, Donald Trump publicly recognised him as the country’s leader. In response, Maduro broke off diplomatic ties with the United States and gave the American diplomats in the country 72 hours to leave.

The Presidential Battle

The lingering situation has continued to create a sort of “internal” and “external” aspects of the crisis.

To a large extent, Venezuela’s political crisis and presidential tussle is of the government’s own making. Instead of easing or ending it, the government’s actions—and inactions—over the last several years have made it far worse.

Yet, the government has not acted in a vacuum, but in a hostile domestic and international environment. The opposition has openly and repeatedly pushed for regime change by any means necessary.

However, President Nicolás Maduro told the U.N. General Assembly few months ago that there was no crisis. He said “Venezuela is the victim of world media attacks designed to construct a supposed humanitarian crisis so as to justify a military intervention”.

For two decades, backers of Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution” — the brainchild of President Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013 — talked up its empowerment of the poor through welfare programs and leftist labor laws. But since Maduro, Chávez’s anointed successor, took office, the already shaky economy has spiraled into a seemingly bottomless crisis.  

Hugo Chavez, a former paratrooper jailed for two years after leading a failed coup in 1992, was first elected president in 1998 and revolutionized Venezuelan politics with fiery anti-U.S. rhetoric.

He nationalized thousands of companies or their assets, reducing the country’s capacity to produce anything but oil. He channeled revenue to the poor and expanded Venezuela’s influence in the region by doling out cheap oil.

He used widespread support to transform a pluralistic democracy into a largely authoritarian system. When the oil bonanza ended in 2014 under Maduro’s rule, the country could no longer rely on oil revenue, which accounts for 95 percent of foreign-currency earnings, to pay for imports.

Juan Guaido, 35 years, the president of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, announced Jan. 23 that he would assume Maduro’s powers temporarily, a move recognized by the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Peru and Chile.

Guaido invoked a constitutional amendment that allows for the head of the legislature to lead a caretaker government until new elections can be held. The Assembly had already declared Maduro’s rule illegitimate following his re-election in May, which was widely seen as a charade.

Maduro has dismissed actions by the Assembly, which was stripped of its power in 2017 by a Supreme Court largely loyal to the president, but the body remains recognized as a legitimate source of authority by regional powers.

Venezuela’s Crippling Economy

Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, Since its discovery in the 1920s, oil has taken Venezuela on an exhilarating but dangerous boom-and-bust ride that offers lessons for other resource-rich states.

Decades of poor governance have driven what was once one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries to economic and political ruin.

In 2014, global oil prices dropped really low, and crushed Venezuela’s economy. Simultaneously, Maduro’s been busy consolidating power since he took office. And his government got blamed for the country’s current crisis, with respect to corruption and mismanagement. The crisis has led to hyperinflation, massive debt, food and medicine shortages, its currency becoming basically worthless, and millions leaving the country. many has also blamed Chavez and his policies for the crisis too.

Observers and economists have stated that the crisis is not the result of a conflict or natural disaster but the consequences of populist policies that began under the Chávez administration’s.

Following Chávez’s death, Nicolás Maduro became president after defeating his opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski by a mere 235,000 votes, a 1.5% margin. Maduro continued most of the existing economic policies of his predecessor Chávez. Upon entering the presidency, Maduro faced a high inflation rate and large shortages of goods, problems left over from Chávez’s policies.

Foreign Influence

Earlier this month, Maduro was inaugurated for a second term after winning re-election in 2018. But a number of countries have refused to recognize his win, alleging that the election was rigged. The Venezuelan constitution says that when the presidency is vacant, the head of the National Assembly i.e the parliament takes over. Because the National Assembly does not consider the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency, Guaido was able to invoke the constitution to put himself temporarily in charge.

Therefore, countries that support President Maduro: Bolivia, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria, Turkey.

Countries that support opposition leader Juan Guaido: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United Kingdom, United States.

Moises Naim, a former Venezuelan minister now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said via Twitter at the end of last week that this group should be referred to as the “autocrats’ alliance.”

Of those in support of Maduro, the EIU’s Freijedo said Russia and China are the ” wildcards .”

US President Donald Trump officially recognised Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela just minutes after the latter had said he would take over the executive powers.

US gives control over bank accounts to Guaido

The US certified the authority of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to control certain assets held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other US-insured banks, the State Department said on Tuesday.

The certification, given on Friday, applies to certain property held in accounts belonging to the Venezuelan government or its central bank.

“This certification will help Venezuela’s legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.

Trump warns Americans not to travel to Venezuela

President Donald Trump on Wednesday warned US citizens against travelling to Venezuela amid the political crisis there over control of the government, as the US and other nations have recognised Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s rival Juan Guaido.

US President Donald Trump’s national security advisor warned of “serious consequences” if any harm comes to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido .

Bolton’s warning followed a request by the Maduro government’s attorney general for the Supreme Court to bar Guaido from leaving the country and to freeze his assets.

On August 11, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump said that he is “not going to rule out a military option” to confront the autocratic government of Nicolás Maduro and the deepening crisis in Venezuela.Trump’s US advisers explained that it is not wise to even discuss a military solution due to the long history of unpopular intervention in Latin America by the United States.

Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino immediately criticized Trump for his statement, calling it “an act of supreme extremism” and “an act of madness”. The Venezuelan communications minister, Ernesto Villegas, said Trump’s words amounted to “an unprecedented threat to national sovereignty”.

Representatives of the United States were in contact with dissident Venezuelan military officers during 2017 and 2018 but declined to collaborate with them or provide assistance to them.

UN’s Secretary General, Antonio Guterres position

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has posited a proposal to find a peaceful solution to the political conflict in Venezuela.

Guterres asserted on Monday that the States of the General Assembly and the Security Council recognize Nicolas Maduro as the constitutional and legitimate president of Venezuela over the self-proclaimed President in charge, Juan Guaido.

Guterres advocated for the dialogue against those who deny the possibility of solving the situation in Caracas and called to reduce tensions.

On the other hand, the UN expert on human rights, Idriss Jazairy, said the economic sanctions announced by the U.S. government against the South American nation, do not contribute to a solution, on the contrary, worsen the crisis even more.

Nicolas Maduro Calls for Dialogue and Respect

Nicolas Maduro, reiterated on Friday, Feb 1, in his disposition to dialogue as the only way for peace, in the midst of the tensions that the nation is experiencing due to the developing coup dӎtat that the opposition sectors are encouraging.

‘Dialogue, respect and cooperation among peoples is the only way to achieve peace in the world. That is the path we propose with our Bolivarian Peace Diplomacy,’ the Head of State wrote in Twitter.

In this way, the President ratified his call for unity among Venezuelans and for political debate with those who seek to ignore the constitutionality of his term and foster the establishment of a parallel government in the nation.

In an interview with the Russian agency Sputnik, the President confirmed his willingness to talk to the Venezuelan opposition about ‘the future’ of the country despite the constant aggressions of the opposition sector.

Maduro did not rule out the possibility of advancing the legislative elections in Venezuela to reconstitute that power, after the National Assembly was declared in contempt since 2016 for irregularities in the election of three MPs.

It would be very nice if there were early elections for parliament, it would be a better form of political debate and a solution with the popular vote’, he said.

I’ m ready, with an open agenda, to sit down with opposition sectors to talk about the welfare of Venezuela, peace and the future’, he said.

He also expressed his willingness to talk with U.S. President Donald Trump on the Venezuelan context. ‘I’m sure that if we see each other face to face and we talk, another story will be written,’ Maduro added.

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