Crowds of people have taken to the streets in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, this past week in support and opposition of President Nicolas Maduro. After a recent nationwide blackout, anti-government protesters answered opposition leader Juan Guaido’s call for action against the president. Guaido urged protesters to demand that Maduro step down and do more to restore the nation’s power as hospitals enter stages of crisis, and citizens lack access to food and water. Supporters of Maduro call the blackout an attempt by the U.S. to sabotage the ruling socialist party, while the opposition claim it is a result of decades of corruption and mismanagement. Ricardo Leon, editor of El Silbon Information Agency, told Al Jazeera “We need to talk and through elections call for changes; we can’t solve our problems by letting external powers intervene.”
Despite the pushback from an increasing number of anti-government protesters, Maduro doesn’t seem to be interested in stepping down. In a recent interview he stated, “Today, more than ever, we’re anti-imperialists. We will never surrender!” His supporters seem to be with him and are fighting back against the opposition as well. Numerous red-shirted Maduro supporters asked the U.S. to stop “sabotaging” and intervening in the country’s internal affairs.
Political discourse regarding President Maduro escalated after Guaido appointed himself as interim president in January. As head of the national assembly, Guaido suggests that his self-proclaimed presidency is legally sound as the Venezuelan constitution states that the head of the national assembly may take over as president if they deem the elected official as inadequate. Maduro reacted to this claim by calling Guaido a “clown” and a “delinquent citizen.” Guaido formed his foundation largely on his claim that Maduro had taken power by force during last year’s presidential elections. The U.S., EU, and UN all back this claim and hold that the election did not occur to democratic standards. On the other hand, similar to the controversy over the cause of the power outage, Maduro claims that Guaido is merely a “puppet” of Washington and is overly involved with the United States. Under both the Obama and Trump administration, economic sanctions on Venezuela have been widened and may suggest U.S. support of a coup. On the other hand, Maduro has repeatedly been offered humanitarian aid from other nations and has refused. So far, Guaido has been backed by and found major support from the U.S., Colombia, and Brazil. While the opposition has its own motivations for a coup and economic change, it isn’t wrong to question the nature of U.S. involvement with Venezuela. The country is rich in oil and thus a large point of interest for these nations. Many citizens of Venezuela have yet to reap the benefits of the oil they sit on as the country remains in economic dissonance. As a result of these conflicts of interest, the country’s political situation has become even more complicated by the involvement of numerous other nations.
No matter the personal agendas of any of the nations involved, aid must be provided to Venezuela in some form. In Caracas, an emergency surgeon told Al Jazeera that “We’re in a permanent state of alert, I didn’t stop receiving patients. We could only help those who had life-threatening issues.” One mother of a younger hospital patient told Al Jazeera, “There is no electricity and because of that there is no water.” Another man spoke to Al Jazeera on his way to get groceries and complained of how “The food we have has spoiled” and how it is difficult to access and store adequate food with the power outage. In addition to health disasters and the lack of basic resources, the government has had to shut down schools and suspend working hours on numerous occasions because of the lack of power. Oscar Hernandez, a local engineer, told the Washington Post, “I’m preparing for Armageddon, the government is too incompetent to fix it in the short term.”
In order for Venezuela to remain independent of outside, possibly imperialist influences, while also ensuring basic human rights for all citizens, an agreement must be made. Though the U.S. has not mentioned it outwardly, there has been talk about moving U.S. military troops to Colombia and other Latin American countries near Venezuela as mentioned by Al Jazeera news. Both parties must make actions to avoid this violence against humanity and work towards a compromise where the Venezuelan people can participate in legitimate elections while being able to fulfill economic and personal needs. Corruption within and imperialist influence outside of Venezuela must be avoided at all costs.