What's Going on with Venezuela: A Summary for the Uninformed

By Ethan Johnson

Tensions are rising as the nations of the world take sides in the Venezuelan conflict between incumbent president Nicolas Maduro and the opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president last week.

Since Guaido’s announcement, many countries have declared support for a side in the infamous conflict. The United States was among the first countries to support Guaido by acknowledging him as the legitimate president. Canada, Australia, many Latin American countries, and other U.S. allies have also acknowledged Guaido’s presidency. However, Russia, China, Cuba, Turkey, and Syria are among the countries that support Maduro as the legitimate president. The European Union gave Maduro an ultimatum to host new elections or they would declare support for Guaido but later recognized Guaido as president after Maduro failed to meet the terms.  

Venezuela has been in a power struggle since Juan Guaido declared himself interim president during protests that brought hundreds of thousands of citizens to the streets. During the protests Guaido called for the Venezuelan military to defect. Since then Maduro’s top military officers have renewed their support for the incumbent president. There are many reports however that most of the soldiers and junior officers support Guaido and are willing to defect.

Maduro recently started to his second term on January 10th, 2019. However many have complained under suspicions that the election was illegitimate due to many reports of opposition being arrested or barred from running.

Juan Guaido was the leader of the opposition held National Assembly. The National Assembly hasn't had much power in recent years but was still allowed to exist. The Venezuelan Constitution states that the leader of the National Assembly becomes president in event of a vacuum of power. Guaido has claimed that because Maduro is an illegitimate president that the position was qualified to be a vacuum.

Recently Maduro attempted to withdraw roughly $1 billion worth of gold stored in the Bank of England. This came shortly after The UK decided that it would recognize Guaido as the president of Venezuela.

Maduro blames the United States for the economic struggles that have plagued Venezuela in recent years. He also blames the U.S. for orchestrating what he is referring to as a “coup”. Russia has been one of the most vocal of Maduro’s allies to speak against the U.S.’s involvement in the conflict.

Venezuela has, historically, been Russia’s strongest ally in the Western Hemisphere since the fall of the Soviet Union. There have even been reports that Russia has sent private military contractors into Venezuela. The Kremlin however has denied these reports. Russia has also been a great financial partner to Venezuela, loaning billions of dollars since 2007. Russia has announced that it still expects Venezuela to repay its debts despite the conflict.

China has been an even greater benefactor, investing $62 billion since 2007. Other countries that have announced support or simply still recognize Maduro as president include Syria, Iran, Mexico, Cuba, Turkey, Greece, Uruguay, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and South Africa, with the list growing longer as time passes.

Aside from the United States, Canada, Japan, Ukraine, the EU, Australia, Georgia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, and Paraguay have also recognized Guaido as president.

Guaido has recently announced that venezuelan police searched his family home. He says that they were searching for his wife and that he believes his family to be in danger. The United States has previously said that it there will be consequences if any harm comes to Guaido.

Shortly after the United States recognized Guaido as president, Maduro broke off all relations with the U.S. and ordered President Trump to remove all personnel from the U.S. embassy in Venezuela. Trump refused to close the embassy and declared that he has no plans on closing it but did evacuate non-essential personnel and families for safety issues.

Many countries on either side of the conflict have expressed their desire to avoid violence, but only a few countries have ruled out military efforts. The United States has made no official announcement to move troops to support the opposition, but a picture of National Security Advisor, John Bolton, shows a notepad with a note calling to send 5,000 troops to Colombia. It is possible that the U.S. is preparing for potential conflicts should the situation escalate.

It is still unknown whether the situation will escalate into a war or if it will be resolved peacefully through Maduro’s resignation. Maduro has threatened that if the U.S. invades that it will be a war worse than Vietnam.