Presidential crisis in Venezuela. Read what is happening?

President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro Moros

Where is Venezuela?  Venezuela is an oil-rich country in South America. President Nicolas Maduro has been the leader of the country since 2013.

Venezuela has suffered under the presidency of Mr. Maduro since 2013. The country has been in the news for many reasons; protests against the government, rising poverty and crime, shortage of food and medicine and skyrocketing prices of essential items (hyperinflation).

Venezuela has squandered its profound oil wealth. About 3 million Venezuelans — about 8 percent of the population — have left their homeland to safety.

Protests across Venezuela

What is the current crisis in Venezuela?

On January 10, 2019, President Maduro began his second six-year term as President. However, most people think the election was unfair as many other candidates were not allowed to run. They believe the election was rigged!

On January 23, 2019, there was a huge protest in Venezuela about this. Tens of thousands demonstrators marched the streets of the capital city, Caracas, as well as many other cities across the South American nation. The protesters are demanding that Mr.  Maduro step down and no longer be president. They want a new person to take command.

Who is this new person?

Juan Guaidó who has staked claim as Venezuela’s interim president, Photo Credit: BBC

A 35-year-old named Juan Guaidó. Guaidó has been leading the opposition against Maduro. According to Venezuela’s constitution, the government says that in case of an unfair election, the head of the National Assembly takes over as acting president. That is why Mr Guaidó who is the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela and has declared himself acting president on 23 January.

He has asked everyone opposing Mr. Maduro to demonstrate peacefully. He is encouraging the country’s military and government offices to support him liberate Venezuela from the current dictatorship. He has also promised to hold a legitimate election soon.

Mr Guaidó is largely staying out of public view amid fear that Mr. Maduro’s military forces could arrest him.

How is the world reacting?

Several international leaders from the US, Canada, and some Latin American countries agree that Guaidó should be in charge. U.S President Donald Trump has officially released a statement recognizing Juan Guaidó as the interim President of Venezuela.

Other EU nations such as Spain, France and Germany are demanding a call for fair free and transparent elections within the next 8 days. Otherwise, they are threatening to support Juan Guaidó as the new President.

Countries such as Russia, China, South Africa continue to support Mr. Maduro and do not support the attempted coup (sudden seizure of power from a government).

What is Mr. Maduro’s stand?

Mr. Maduro isn’t sitting quietly. He has refused to step down as president and has asked Venezuelans to stay patient. He also released a statement breaking off relations with the US and gave US diplomats 72 hours to leave Venezuela.

What will happen next?

While the 35-year-old Mr. Guaidó has the support of international leaders, he does not have much power in functional terms. Though he is the president of the National Assembly, his lawmaking body has been made powerless. In 2017 Mr. Maduro formed a competing National Constituent Assembly and has filled it with government-loyalists. He created this so he can override decisions made by the opposing National Assembly.

The military forces are seen as the key player in this crisis. So far they have been loyal to Mr Maduro. He has favored military personnel with frequent pay increases and set high-ranking military individuals in control of key roles and industries. Although the military’s top administration support Maduro, will the those of the lower ranks continue?

The presidential struggle in the South American nation continues and no one is certain exactly what will happen next. Venezuelans hope that perhaps a change of power will bring peace. Let see how the political crisis unveils.

Adapted: By Biyash Choksey

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