In Venezuela, mired in a political and humanitarian crisis of an epic scale, Nicolás Maduro took office as president for the second time until 2025. The winner of the May presidential elections will lead the country in the face of difficult internal political conditions and pressure from the United States, the EU, and most Latin American countries that refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the elections. How will defend your political project Maduro? What measures will the government take to bring the country out of the acute economic and political situation?
As a number of world leading observers emphasize, the “devastation” of such a level as in Venezuela at the beginning of 2019, Latin America has not yet seen in its entire modern history. In turn, the IMF forecasts inflation this year to 10 million percent. According to estimates by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), about three million Venezuelan migrants “fled” from Venezuela to various countries in the Latin American region. In these structures, it is believed that by the end of 2019 the number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela could reach 5.3 million people. Those who stayed in the country are trying to survive in terms of wages, not exceeding $ 5 per month. For several years now, the country has been experiencing an acute social and economic crisis, accompanied by the devaluation of the national currency and uncontrolled hyperinflation. According to the parliamentary finance committee, the price increase in 2018 was about 1.7 million percent.
It is worth recalling that the former president of Venezuela, one of the main instigators of the “leftists” in the region, Hugo Chavez (Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías) in 2012 called Nicolás Maduro (Nicolás Maduro Moros) his successor. After the death of Chavez in March 2013, Maduro first became acting president. A month later, he was officially elected to the post of head of state, gaining then about 51% of the vote.
Maduro is a prominent representative among Latin American populist leaders. He has no higher education. Prior to the political sphere, Nicolás Maduro worked as a bus driver in the Venezuelan metropolitan transport company “Metro de Caracas”. At the end of the 1990s, he headed the trade union and in 2000 was elected to the national parliament. In the government of Hugo Chávez, by 2006 he was able to reach the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In 2015, opposition parties won the majority of seats in the parliamentary elections and after a year tried to start the impeachment procedure. In response to such actions, Maduro convened in July 2017 the Constitutional Assembly (CA), which dissolved parliament. Not a single representative of the opposition forces was included in this legislative body. For this reason, most Latin American countries do not recognize the CA.
The presidential elections in Venezuela were held on May 20 of last year. Nicolás Maduro managed to get almost 6.2 million votes (about 67%), and his main opponent Henri Falcón (Henri José Falcón Fuentes) from the opposition party “Progressive Avant-garde” (Spanish – Avanzada Progresista) – 1,9 million. The main opponent of Maduro, the former governor, even before the announcement of the official results, said that he did not recognize them. He demanded new elections in December, the traditional time of the presidential elections in Venezuela. More than 20.5 million people were invited to vote, the turnout was 45.99%. After the victory, the Venezuelan leader later took the oath before the Constitutional Assembly (CA) later that month.
After the announcement of the election results, the international reaction was not long in coming. The United States, Canada, the European Union, 12 Latin American countries stated that the elections did not meet democratic standards. The document on the non-recognition of the new presidential term of Maduro by the member states of the “Lima Group” was signed by the representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia and Chile. They urged Maduro not to take office as president and hand over the executive power to the National Assembly.
Immediately after the inauguration ceremony on January 10, Paraguay announced the severance of diplomatic relations with Caracas, the Peruvian authorities decided to withdraw its counsel for consultations, Argentina imposed a ban on entry of Venezuelan high-ranking officials into the country, and the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) had issued a decision not to recognize the legitimacy of the new term (until 2025) of the Maduro regime.
According to the Venezuelan authorities, more than 90 foreign delegations took part in the inauguration ceremony of Maduro, including the leaders of six states: Abkhazia, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and South Ossetia. The Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council, Ilyas Umakhanov, represented the Russian delegation. During his speech, Maduro reiterated that Venezuela is “a victim in the economic war against imperialism”, and added that he was ready to meet with any critic of his government on the world stage and tell the whole truth about his country. According to the Venezuelan leader, the government already has a plan for new economic measures aimed at improving the situation, which he will present in the coming days. In his speech, Maduro thanked Russia and China for the economic assistance provided in 2018.
The day after the inauguration on January 11, 35-year-old speaker of the Venezuelan parliament Juan Guaidó (Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez) said that the country’s constitution allows him to exercise the powers of the president. He referred to Articles No. 233, 333 and 350 of the Constitution, which state that if the President of the Republic cannot fulfill his duties, the power passes to the head of the National Assembly. The opposition Congress declared him a usurper, and the United States and many Latin American countries, in turn, declared that they recognized the National Assembly as the only legitimate institution in the country. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Michael Richard “Mike” Pompeo) also voiced the official position of his country, calling the government of Nicolás Maduro “illegitimate” and stating that the leading world power would do everything necessary to restore “true democracy”.
How events will develop in the expanses of the main “oil vein” of the Latin American region will show soon. The obvious thing is that Venezuela will not be able to survive for a long time in the international arena with two leaders. An unprecedented crisis has split the whole world into two camps. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a communique in which it is noted that the US is openly encroaching on the sovereignty of Venezuela, facilitating the creation of “alternative government structures” in Venezuela. The Russian government opposed a split in society, noting that in order to overcome the crisis, it is necessary to combine the efforts of the government and the opposition.
Against the background of Western sanctions in Venezuela continues the worst economic crisis. That is why these days Caracas is trying to find a way around the economic blockade initiated by Washington. Ankara has already been able to offer its own version. This is the same mechanism by which Turkey tried to trade with Iran to circumvent international sanctions imposed on the Iranian regime for developing weapons of mass destruction and testing ballistic missiles. As analysts suggest, Venezuela will “pay off” with Turkey in exchange for food. Such a statement about the similarity of the economic algorithm arose after the Venezuelan authorities announced that they were transferring their gold processing centers from Switzerland to Turkey, where, as stated in Caracas, there are fewer chances that the Venezuelan plants would be “attacked” by the US authorities.
According to a number of international observers, dissidents inside the country or because of a popular uprising may eventually overthrow Maduro. However, in a difficult political environment, the pressure that Venezuela puts on its neighbors will only increase.