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Spotlight On... Maduro’s Moment Of Truth

  • Patricia Laya
  • May, 2019
  • 149
  • Venezuela violence

THE CARACAS CRISIS CAN NEVER END UNLESS PRESIDENT NICOLÁS MADURO MOROS IS OUT AS FOOD SHORTAGES AND MEDICINE AND A COLLAPSE OF SOCIAL SERVICES SINK

CARACAS, VENEZUELA

TOTAL TURMOIL

Venezuela has been in a deep crisis under the authoritarian rule of President Nicolás Maduro Moros, who came to power in April 19, 2013, of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Mr. Maduro was narrowly elected in 2013 after the death of populist President Hugo Chávez, who had served since 1999.

Mr. Maduro’s regime has shown high levels of corruption and economic mismanagement, which have worsened the impact of a decline in global oil prices on the country’s economy. The International Monetary Fund says Venezuela’s economy reduced by 18 percent and inflation exceeded 1.37 million percent in 2018. Nevertheless, Mr. Maduro has used the courts, security forces, and electoral council to strangle political opposition and end dissent. Venezuelan human rights organisation Foro Penal claims the regime held 918 political prisoners as of mid-February 2019. Most Venezuelans and much of the international community considered Mr. Maduro’s May 2018 re-election illegitimate. Shortages in food and medicine, declines in buying power, and a collapse of social services have created a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela that is affecting the entire region.

ANTI-REGIME REVOLT

Since January 2019, the democratically elected, opposition controlled the National Assembly and its President, Juan Guaidó, have collected domestic and international support for their efforts to declare Mr. Maduro’s second term illegitimate and set up an interim government. America and 53 other countries (most of the European Union, 15 Western Hemisphere countries, Australia, and Japan) have recognised Mr. Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela.

They view the National Assembly as Venezuela’s only democratic institution. The National Assembly elected Mr. Guaidó as its president on January 5, 2019; he is a 35-year-old industrial engineer from the Popular Will party of Leopoldo López (under house arrest). In mid-January, Mr. Guaidó announced he was willing to serve as interim president until new presidential elections are held. He called for protests on January 23, 2019, the 61st anniversary of the ouster of another dictator. Buoyed by massive turnout, Mr. Guaidó took the oath of office on that day.

HUMAN HAVOC

Human rights abuses have increased as security forces and colectivos (leftist community organisations) have quashed protests, detained and abused those suspected of dissent, and used violence against civilians seeking to bring food and medicine into the country. In August 2017, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report documented human rights violations committed by Venezuelan security forces against protesters during clashes that left more than 130 killed and thousands injured. The International Criminal Court is examining the regime’s serious human rights violations; the Lima Group, a group of Western Hemisphere countries that formed in 2016 to coordinate regional efforts to hasten a return to democracy in Venezuela, has urged the court to investigate the regime’s recent denial of access to international assistance, which constitutes a crime against humanity.

EMPTY ECHOES

The international community remains divided over how to respond to the many-side crisis in Venezuela. Russia, Cuba, Turkey, and a few other countries support Mr. Maduro. Russia and China have blocked American-led efforts at the Security Council to recognise the Guaidó government. The Lima Group supports the Guaidó government but opposes any military intervention to kick out Mr. Maduro. A European Union-backed International Contact Group on Venezuela, which also includes several Latin American countries, is pushing for internationally observed elections to be held and humanitarian assistance to be allowed into Venezuela through a negotiated, political process.

TRUMP’S TANGLE

Americans traditionally had close relations with Venezuelans, major American oil suppliers, but friction increased under the Chávez government and has intensified under the Maduro regime.

Courtesy of Bloomberg

Patricia Laya is Bloomberg’s bureau chief in Caracas, Venezuela

Fabiola Zerpa, Bloomberg’s reporter, contributed to this report.

Comments on this piece are pre-moderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. You may send your comments to editor.globalage@kipscss.net.

MEANINGS

moment of truth: an important time when you must make a decision quickly, and wh...

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