Several European nations belonging to the European Union have recognized Juan Guaido as the acting president of Venezuela amongst national election controversy that has garnered both international attention as well as strife. The move, officially declared on Monday, comes as a challenge to President Nicolas Maduro’s fervent claims defending the legitimacy of his ascension to the presidency through a fair election process, despite Venezuela’s recent and abrupt economic decline. According to Al Jazeera, France, Spain, Germany, Britain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Latvia, and Lithuania coordinated the announcement of their support for Guaido’s self-motivated acquisition of the acting president position, and according to CNN, this list of nations is supplemented by Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and Estonia as well. The unified, however not collective assertions came after the proposed eight-day period, within which Maduro was encouraged to call new elections, expired without cooperative action in response on Maduro’s part. As a result, those who recognize Guaido’s interim power are calling for immediate free, fair elections. Venezuela’s election conflict has triggered polarized global responses, although the majority of international commentary expresses the overarching desire for fair and free elections in Venezuela.
In addition to the numerous declarations in favour of Guaido’s administration of new elections, CNN has reported that the United States, Canada, Australia, and several other Latin American countries also recognize Guaido as the acting president of Venezuela. According to reports from Al Jazeera, Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez stated in a televised announcement that Spain is labouring toward the fulfillment of democracy, human rights, and elections in Venezuela. Along similar rhetorical lines, President of France, Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to reinforce the notion that Venezuelans “have the right to express themselves freely and democratically” and that the purpose of an acting president, in the specific context of Venezuela, is “to implement an electoral process.” Slightly more vehement, however are the comments from Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, declaring, “The oppression of the illegitimate, kleptocratic Maduro regime must end.” Both Russia and China, according to Al Jazeera have politically aligned with Maduro, in an economically oil-motivated stance against the United States, expressing doubts in the adequacy of international intervention in establishing political and electoral peace in Venezuela. Maduro himself has linguistically confirmed his opposition to accepting ultimatums of any nature. Guaido, on the other hand, has written directly to Russia and China in an attempt to persuade them of the potential value in a Venezuelan political overhaul.
The decision to recognize an acting president independent from the claimed office of the President himself is impossible to categorize accurately in binary categories of good or bad, peaceful or violent. In a sense, the international intervention displayed with regard to the Venezuela affair reinforces the validity of historical legacies based on paternalistic ideologies by demonstrating an instance in which primarily global north nations attempt to assume the existence of a world based on homogenous principles of human rights and justice. At the same time, however the very tangible reality of a socio-economic crisis in Venezuela, one which many blame on the policies and actions of the Maduro regime, is publicly framed as a dire appeal for assistance, which has been met with numerous pledges of humanitarian aid from global north nations. In terms of immediate action, the recognition of Guaido as acting president of Venezuela demonstrates the placement of a widespread international value on democracy. Ideologically however, to distribute power from outside the nation in question itself is certainly not a surefire guarantee of national peace and prosperity, especially when the power of the nation’s highest office is externally challenged.
According to the BBC, Maduro was first elected and began serving as President of Venezuela in 2013 for a six-year term, following the death of former leader Hugo Chávez, during which the nation struggled with inflation, shortages in power, food, and medicine, as well as incredibly high rates of emigration. His reelection in May 2018 was highly contested due to the fact that it was boycotted by most opposition parties, numerous opposition candidates were barred from running, and even imprisoned, calling its utilization of democratic practices into question. Guaido, the National Assembly leader of Venezuela declared himself acting president just two weeks after Maduro was sworn into office to serve his second term, thereby sparking the nation’s electoral crisis.
Although likely not a direct road to peace in the midst of polar conflict, the decision of numerous European nations to recognize the presidential power of Guaido over Maduro does align with the rhetorical hyper-value placed on the top-down spread of democracy that has been heavily promoted within the framework of post-World War II international relations. The ultimate goal of the political maneuver, however, is to enable the achievement of just elections.