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Escalation of political crisis in Venezuela



Escalation of political crisis in Venezuela

The political history of Venezuela will be incomplete without the mention of Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela. Two factions emerged after the country’s last Presidential election. Maduro used all apparatus of state to declare himself as President, while on the other hand, Juan Guaido, the opposition presidential candidate also declared himself as president of the country. In declaring himself as President of Venezuela, Guadio cited articles 233 and 333 of the country’s constitution. Reacting, the legislature announced that in such a case, the head as the National Assembly takes over as the acting President. It was as a result of this, Guaido declared himself as acting President on January 23, 2019. Ever since, he has been organizing mass protests and calling on the military to switch allegiance. Thus, the 35-year-old Guaido emerged as a factional President in Venezuela.
In these circumstances the National Assembly is of the strong opinion that Nicolas Maduro is a usurper, because the election was not free and fair and therefore the Presidency is vacant. This thought was what is being pushed by Guaido, the new President of the National Assembly. Since this development there has been series of reaction both for and against. It must be realized that Guaido is being backed by the United States and her allies. At the moment more than 50 countries have recognized Guaido as the legitimate President, especially by the United States and many nations in Latin America. Russia and China among others have warned the United States not to apply force in dealing with the political stalemate in Venezuela.
Within the country, those who are opposed to the government of Maduro celebrated Guaido move, while government officials said that they would defend the President from imperialist threats. Guaido, on the other hand, does not have much power in practical terms to handle the political situation in Venezuela which has become very complex.
The opposition-controlled National Assembly has continued to meet to discuss the way forward and perhaps take decisions which are not even binding on President Maduro. Maduro has however relied on those decisions made by the National Constituent Assembly. The security forces are seen as the key player in the crisis. So far, they have been loyal to Maduro, who has rewarded them with frequent pay rises and put high ranking military men in control of key posts and industries. Guaido has promised all security forces personnel amnesty if they break with President Maduro. On April 30, 2019, Guaido published a video on Twitter in which he again appealed on the military to switch sides. The footage showed him surrounded by a group of men in uniforms in a location near La Carlota air base.
He said he had the support of the military and announced the beginning of the “final phase” of his takeover of power. But the Defence Minister, Vladimir Padrino, said that all military bases remained under government control and were operating normally. Some of the problems of Venezuela go back to President Maduro and his predecessor, the late President Hugo Chavez, who find themselves the target of much of the current anger. Their socialist government has been in power since 1999, taking over the country at a time when Venezuela had huge inequality. But the socialist policies brought in which aimed to help the poor backfired. Take price controls, for example. They were introduced by Chavez to make basic goods more affordable to the poor by capping the price of flour, cooking oil, and toiletries. Critics also blame the foreign currency controls brought in by President Hugo in 2003 for a flourishing black market in dollars.
Since then, Venezuelans wanting to exchange bolivars for dollars have had to apply to a government-run currency agency. Only those deemed to have a valid reasons to buy dollars, for example to import goods, have been allowed to change their bolivars at a fixed rate set by the government. With many Venezuelans unable to freely buy dollars, they turned to black market. Arguably the biggest problem facing Venezuelans in their day-to-day lives is hyperinflation. The annual inflation rate reached 1,300,000% in the 12 months to November 2018, according to a study by the opposition-controlled National Assembly. By the end of 2018, prices were doubling every 19 days on average. This has many Venezuelans struggling to afford basic items such as food and toiletries.
The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has led to one of the largest mass migrations in Latin America’s history. President Maduro blames “imperialists” – the likes of the U.S. and Europe – for waging “economic war” against Venezuela and imposing sanctions on many members of his government. But his critics say it is economic mismanagement – first by predecessor, Chavez, and now Maduro himself – that has brought Venezuela to his knees. The country has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. It was once so rich that Concord used to fly from Caracas to Paris. Now, its economy is in tatters. Four in five Venezuelans live in poverty. People queue for hours to buy foods. Much of the time they go without. People are dying from lack of medicines. Inflation is at 82,766% and they are warning that it could exceed one million per cent by the end of this year.
It appears that the political problem of Venezuela is yet to subside. A situation whereby two factional Presidents have emerged, is a sorry situation for that country. On his part, Maduro is holding onto power while Guaido has declared himself President. He derived his power from the Venezuela’s constitution which states: that the leader of the National Assembly shall become President when the Presidency is vacant. As far as the National Assembly is concerned the Presidency of Venezuela is vacant, and therefore the hold on power as President by Maduro is illegitimate, null and void.

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