A Challenge to Maduro


Written by Matthew Mendez, Journalist

Less than two weeks ago, on January 30, 2019, opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president of Venezuela. Before a crowd of demonstrators demanding that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro resign from office, Guaidó swore to, “formally assume the powers of the presidency of Venezuela.” Soon after Juan Guaidó’s startling proclamation, the United States, followed by many other Western democracies such as Canada and Brazil, declared full support for the opposition. In response, President Maduro decided to, “break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist US government.” Only time will tell if Maduro, pressured by the west, will peacefully step down from office or desperately cling to power.

The Venezuelan crisis first began in May 2018, when the National Assembly declared Maduro’s re-election as illegitimate. By 10 January 2019, the National Assembly further reinforced its opposition to Maduro by declaring the president a “usurper” and declaring Juan Guaidó, the National Assembly Speaker, as interim president. President Maduro and his supporters, labeling the National Assembly’s action as little more than a U.S. backed coup d’état, responded by placing Guaidó under house arrest.

Shortly after his release from prison, Guaidó delivered a rousing speech calling for the citizens of Venezuela to protest Maduro’s illegitimacy. The interim president’s words prompted varying responses from the Venezuelan people, with the majority of Venezuelans rallying in mass demonstrations against Maduro while others continued to support the current government. On the other hand, the top officials of the Venezuelan military unanimously declared their support for President Maduro, a clear threat to the opposition.

The presidential crisis in Venezuela also prompted varying responses from the international community. President Trump of the United States, followed by a parade of western democracies such as Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia, declared support for the Venezuelan opposition while simultaneously embargoing Maduro’s government. Meanwhile, the European Union remains split on the Venezuelan crisis. Most of the major powers in the E.U. – including France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain – support Guaidó’s opposition. Other nations in the European Union, like Italy, fearing an escalation of violence, have remained neutral in the Venezuela crisis. To the east of the E.U. though, Russia and China (two nations with significant oil interests in Venezuela) have declared full support for Maduro’s government.

The situation in Venezuela only appears to be getting worse. Maduro’s government, wishing to starve out Guaidó’s opposition, currently refuses to allow any U.S. supply convoys to enter Venezuela. Russia, unwilling to see an extension of U.S. influence in Latin America, warned Washington not to intervene in Venezuela – or else face the consequences. The Venezuelan people, plagued by years of misrule and abuse by an authoritarian government, will hopefully find a resolution without an escalation of tensions at home or abroad.