Venezuela: An Update

By Ethan Johnson

Violent protests broke out across Venezuela after self declared interim president , Juan Guaido called for people to join him in the streets for protests on Tuesday. So far there is only one confirmed death from the violence but there are also reports of multiple injuries.

Members of the military have fired tear gas and water hoses at some of the protestors. At one an armored military vehicle was filmed driving into protestors. This fresh wave of protests marks the most violent episode of the Venezuelan crisis since it began in January.

In a video released on Tuesday, Guaido claimed to have the support of many defectors of the Venezuelan army but Nicolas Maduro claimed to still maintain the loyalty of most of the military and all of its top ranking officers. Maduro also declared victory over Guaido’s movement which he denounced as a coup attempt. "No-one dare touch our sacred ground or bring war to Venezuela," he said.

Guaido did recently manage to release Leopoldo Lopez, a fellow opposition leader, from house arrest. Lopez stood next to Guaido as he called for people to join him on protesting Maduro.

Lopez was later reported to have sought safety within the Spanish embassy. A warrant for Mr. Lopez’s arrest had been issued. The order has stated that Mr. Lopez will serve the remaining 13 years of his imprisonment. The Spanish government has said that it has said that it has no intention of releasing Mr. Lopez to the Venezuelan authorities.

The United States recently claimed that Maduro had been prepared to board a plane and flee to Havana but was talked out of it by Russia. "They had an airplane on the tarmac," said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "He was ready to leave this morning [Tuesday], as we understand it. Russians indicated he should stay." Maduro has since dismissed the claim and once again accused the United States of directing the coup attempt.

Venezuela has been in a crisis since January when Juan Guaido declared himself interim president on the grounds that incumbent president Nicolas Maduro’s recent reelection was illegitimate.

More than 50 countries including the United States and the UK have recognized Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. Other nations including Russia and China insist that Maduro is the leader of Venezuela.

Maduro was first elected to power in Venezuela after the death of President Hugo Chavez in 2013. During his first term, Venezuela’s economy collapsed. Many blamed Maduro and his policies for the crisis. His unpopularity led many to become suspicious of his reelection in 2018.

Juan Guaido was originally the president of the National Assembly, a legislative body that lost most of its power in 2017 with the creation of the National Constituent Assembly. He claims that Maduro’s second term is the result of a fraudulent election due to the jailing and threatening of opponents. He says that because the election was illegitimate, then the position of president is vacant and that the Venezuelan constitution gives Guaido the power to declare himself interim president to fill the void.

Since the protests against Maduro began, Venezuela has continued to face hyperinflation that leaves most of the population in poverty. The nation has also begun suffering power outages that span large swathes of the country and last for days on end.

It is estimated that over three million venezuelans have fled the country in recent years. As many as one million of them have gone to neighboring Columbia. Others have travelled to other nations including Peru, the United States, and Spain.

The United States has reiterated its support for Guaido and the opposition. Mike Pompeo said in a television interview on Wednesday said that “military action is possible” if deemed necessary. President Donald Trump has also said that he is watching the situation closely.

Other nations have had different reactions to the situation. Columbia’s President Ivan Duque has urged Venezuela’s military to stand "on the right side of history" against Maduro. Nations that support Maduro such as Bolivia and Cuba have condemned Guaido’s efforts as an attempted coup.

Inflation in the country has skyrocketed reaching 1.3 million percent in November 2018. The price of a cup of coffee doubled in just one week last December. The massive prices have left many Venezuelans scrambling to find supplies to keep their families fed.

Tensions continue to rise in Venezuela with neither side seeming to be willing to back down nor compromise. The crisis has been dragging on for months now but it appears that it may still have quite a ways to go before its finished.