Venezuela’s Leadership in Shambles

Ryan Zhang ‘20

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Venezuela, a country that is already in great turmoil, suffered a huge blackout last week that has devastated the lives of all citizens. The people are without electricity and leadership of the country is uncertain as the problem ensues. However, this issue started from a singular event that had a butterfly effect — triggering many consequences in the future.

 

The current absence of a stable, singular leader in Venezuela is the main difficulty its people must face. Right now, there is a battle between Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido for who is running the country. In May 2013, Maduro was elected President over a slim majority when his mentor Hugo Chavez passed away, and his presidency had many shortcomings. However, there was a large amount of controversy over Maduro’s most recent election. Although he won, many of the opposition’s party refused to accept the results as many opposition candidates had been barred from running while others had been jailed or had fled the country for fear of being imprisoned [1]. This move was to guarantee Maduro’s second term as president, but many saw this poll as unfair and illegal.

 

It was during Maduro’s swearing in ceremony that opposition leaders were reinvigorated in their attempts to remove Maduro. The National Assembly denounced Maduro as a usurper and declared the seat of the president vacant. The head of the National Assembly was Juan Guaido, and according to articles of Venezuela’s Constitution, the head of the National Assembly would take position as acting President as long as the position is empty. Therefore, on January 23, 2019, Juan Guaido took over as acting president.

 

Thus, there is a power “battle” between Maduro and Guaido on who orders what. The United States has voiced its support for Guaido and so have some Latin American countries along with international leaders, however he does not hold the political power Maduro does. Recently, more and more countries such as Australia have begun to recognize interim President Guaido as the President of Venezuela. This growing support for the abandonment of Maduro came from the US and it has had far reaching effects. Although there are many countries who now wish for Maduro to be overthrown, Maduro is still backed by countries such as Russia and China. Russia had actually invested lots of money into Venezuela in hopes of creating a stable business partner, so they supported Maduro. As the world begins to pick sides, it leads one to wonder whether the conflict will continue escalating and if political relationships among foreign countries will remain intact.

 

President Maduro has also refused any sort of relief or aid to his country, but there are significant efforts to do so. Interim President Guaido vowed to bring tons of aid donated by the US to help Venezuela. In response, President Maduro closed the Brazilian border and threatens to close the Columbian border too — all in order to stop this flow of foreign aid into his country. Maduro claimed that Venezuela does not need any help, but the food shortages and hyperinflation say otherwise. In fact, due to these circumstances more than three million Venezuelans have fled [3]. Kevin Li ‘20 points out that “despite Maduro’s pride and independence, he must realize that there are still people in his country who suffer from his indifference and cruelty.” If Maduro continues to neglect the people for the protection of his position, he may not be able to stay for longer. There have also been violent encounters at the Brazilian border where Venezuelan military and foreign aid locked heads. These encounters have led to large amounts of tension among Venezuela and the other countries.

 

The US has also placed oil sanctions on Venezuela in an attempt to oust President Maduro. These sanctions were aimed towards the state oil company, but Rosneft, Venezuela’s largest oil investor, is helping the oil company survive by allocating funds [2]. Therefore, President Trump’s sanctions do not have the desired effect because the Russian donor is keeping it alive. On the other hand, these sanctions will hit the 30 million people of Venezuela very hard. Due to their already “struggling” situation caused by Maduro’s previous mismanagement of the economy, these new sanctions could push the situation into a humanitarian crisis. Despite the desired effect of hurting Maduro’s largest financial support, it ended up hurting the people and could hurt them further.

 

Now in the most recent development in the conflict, a huge blackout struck Venezuela and the already collapsing country had a taste of anarchy. In Maracaibo, 523 stores were ransacked and dozens died in hospitals due to lack of medicine [4]. The crisis has also demonstrated the views of the two different leaders. Juan Guaido offered this as evidence of the state’s failure and previous mismanagement of state infrastructure while Maduro blames the power grid failure on a US attack. Linh Ho ‘22 adds: “This clearly shows the difference between Guaido and Maduro, as one clearly has identified the problems in Venezuela and seeks to rectify them, while the other sees it as outside meddling. It demonstrates the different type of leadership they offer and who is more fit.” Without electricity, 30 million people were forced to go without television, radio, or Wi-Fi [4]. In addition, many who sought medical help were now forced to bear the pain as hospitals could not restock their supply or pharmacies were looted and there was none left.

 

In conclusion, while the conflict in Venezuela seems to be never ending, the blackout could be the last straw that ousts Maduro from power, allowing foreign aid to flow into Venezuela… or Venezuela may collapse into complete poverty and anarchy, destroying a once prosperous nation.

 

[1] – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-36319877

[2] – https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/08/world/americas/venezuela-sanctions-maduro.html

[3] – https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/21/world/americas/venezuela-aid-block-brazil.html

[4] – https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/15/world/americas/venezuela-blackout-maracaibo.html?rref=

collection%2Ftimestopic%2FVenezuela&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=collection

 

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