What is the political crisis in Venezuela?
EU has said it would recognise Juan Guaido as interim president if Nicolas Maduro failed to call elections within eight days.
Venezuela has plunged itself deep into political turmoil. The legitimacy of its current government is at stake. Let’s take a look at what’s brewing in this Latin American country.
Firstly, Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition party, National Assembly, has declared himself as the interim president. This took place barely two weeks after President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela was sworn-in for a second term. This election was mired in controversy in the backdrop of large scale boycotting by Opposition parties and even arrests of challengers.
The Opposition deems Maduro’s presidency illegitimate, and he is branded as a usurper of power. This scenario provided the Opposition with constitutional leeway to claim the presidency. Maduro had assumed the presidency after the death of Hugo Chávez in 2013. Guaido is presently challenging the country’s leadership.
Secondly, last week, US has declared its support to Guaido. Canada, several countries in Western Europe, and most of the Latin American countries have also come out in support of Guaido. Australia and Israel have also become the latest countries to join the fray and back Guaido.
President Trump has tweeted: “The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime. Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.”
As a result, Maduro has said that he is breaking diplomatic relations with the United States. He has also given US diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave the country. It is not the first time US has intervened in the internal matters of the Latin American countries.
Not just this, European Union (EU) has said it would recognise Guaido as interim president if Maduro failed to call elections within eight days.
On the other hand, Russia, China, Iran and Syria and longstanding leftist allies, Bolivia and Cuba, have extended their support to Maduro. Military commanders, including Venezuela defense minister Vladimir Padrino, have promised to side with Maduro.
Russia has invested heavily in the country’s oil industry and provided support to its armed forces. It is now warning Washington against military intervention. It has also said it would protect the country’s sovereignty.
US and Russia’s relationship are already at odds. The Venezuelan crisis has the potential to further strain it. Even China has voiced its support for Maduro.
On January 25, India’s ministry of external affairs’ official spokesperson, too, put out a statement about the political developments in Venezuela: “We believe democracy, peace and security in Venezuela are of paramount importance for the progress and prosperity of the people of Venezuela.”
Thirdly, Venezuela has the world’s largest underground oil reserves. Crude production, however, continues to crash. Its political instability has deep implications internationally.
So, what next?
There can be a clampdown on protesters and Opposition. Other Latin American countries may offer to mediate. The military of the country can possibly change sides. Therefore, the future looks doubly uncertain for the troubled country.
Venezuela is also facing hyperinflation. Power cuts and shortages of food and medicines are forcing millions of Venezuelans to flee the country.