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In recent weeks, the political crisis in Venezuela has deepened following a series of events stemming from Maduro’s inauguration in January, and National Assembly President Juan Guaido’s self-declaration as interim president of the country several days later, after many, both in the country and in the international community, refused to acknowledge Maduro’s second term as President. The political turmoil will only deepen the country’s socioeconomic crisis, which for years has affected the lives of countless Venezuelans.
Government elections were held in May 2018 – six months earlier than previously planned – allowing for Maduro to win the fraudulent elections by imprisoning or barring opposition leaders and parties from running, using threats and bargaining tools to force people to vote for him, and changing election rules and practices to rig the elections in his favour. Maduro was then inaugurated on January 10th, 2019. On January 23rd, Juan Guaido declared himself interim President of Venezuela, citing the illegitimacy of the 2018 elections, and in spite of the Supreme Court’s ruling that “all actions taken by the National Assembly were null and void” (Al Jazeera). Following this, Venezuelans have taken to the streets in their tens of thousands, many in support of Guaido and others still in support of Maduro. Amidst these protests, Venezuela’s military attache in Washington D.C., Colonel Jose Luis Silva Silva, withdrew his support for Maduro and stood behind Guaido. Another key general in the Venezuelan air force has also defected from the military in support of Guaido, although this defection video has not been authenticated by a number of news sites.
The U.S. has increased pressure on Venezuela by strengthening sanctions against the country, and is hoping to stream oil revenue directly to Guaido and Venezuelans in need, bypassing Maduro and the military’s accounts. They have also declared Maduro’s election illegitimate and fully support Guaido. Guaido is also supported by most of the countries in the Lima Group (a coalition of 13 Latin American countries along with Canada) along with Australia and Israel. The E.U. has also called for new elections to be held.
However, Maduro is supported by China and Turkey, along with Russia, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. Russia and China have already vetoed a United Nations Security Council decision to support Guaido. Maduro also continues to court his own military, police, and other government forces and institutions, giving him an advantage within the country. Maduro has accused Guaido and the National Assembly of orchestrating a U.S.-backed coup against him.
This political crisis has been ongoing since Maduro’s first term in 2013, alongside a socioeconomic crisis that was set into motion when Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, began to arbitrarily spend oil revenue, setting the tone for Maduro’s own government spending and financial decisions, and creating problems when oil prices dropped in 2015.
As a result, Venezuelans have suffered tremendously in all aspects of their lives as the crisis has impacted the economy, employment, housing, healthcare access, general health, infant and maternal mortality, nutrition, access to food, child malnutrition, crime and homicide rates, government and military corruption, human rights, infant and maternal mortality, and access to basic goods. Due to these extremely poor living conditions, Venezuelans have been leaving the country en masse, with an estimated 1.5 million Venezuelan emigrants having left in the past three years.
While nations declare support for different governments and parties, and politicians within Venezuela continue to fight for control, it is the people of Venezuela that pay the price of the country’s crisis, and for this to change a stable government must work to repair the economy and provide for its vulnerable populations.