Venezuela is experiencing a political, economic and social crisis since the beginning of 2013, when President Hugo Chávez died of cancer. The death of the Venezuelan leader resulted in the vice president Nicolás Maduro assuming power. In the parliamentary elections of 2015, the opposition obtained 112 of the 167 available seats, thus achieving the qualified majority in the National Assembly. This generated a change in the political forces, but the subsequent votes of governors and mayors showed the irregularities in the electoral institutions.
In the face of both national and international political pressure, in early 2018 elections were held for the presidency, in which Nicolás Maduro was re-elected. However, many international observers and civil associations reported irregularities, leading several governments to classify this election as fraudulent.
This led Juan Guaidó , leader of the opposition and president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, to ignore Maduro as president. He argued, based on the Venezuelan Constitution, that the president of the National Assembly has the power to take over the Executive since the process by which Maduro assumed power was illegitimate. He declared that his presidency will be of an interim nature and that he will call for free elections. Shortly after its protest, several countries recognized Guaidó as legitimate president, including 11 of the 14 countries that make up the Lima Group, a multilateral body that aims to follow up and seek a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela. However, despite diplomatic pressure against Maduro, he still has army support, which gives him control over Venezuelan territory.
This is why – paradoxically – Maduro’s exit from power could generate greater instability. Depending on the conditions and the position assumed by the armed forces, if the pressures on Maduro force him to resign, it could not be the opposition, that is, Guaidó , who assumes power, but the actors closest to the official institutions. Under these conditions, a civil war between multiple factions could be one of the probable scenarios.
In addition, it should be noted that many of the policies inherited by Chavismo still have legitimacy for many Venezuelans. Despite criticism of Maduro for his poor economic management and the means he has used to extend his mandate, socialist ideology is still strong in Venezuela, according to Ronal Rodríguez, an academic at the Venezuelan Observatory of the Universidad del Rosario in Colombia. Although Guaidó has promised a democratic transition, he has not spoken out against the policies inherited from the Chavez era. Even if the opposition does not manage to take power, the legitimacy and stability of its government will depend on its ability to encourage economic growth and return to Venezuelan families access to a basic basket of inputs.
Another scenario is that the armed forces choose to take control of the government in the absence of Maduro. The armed forces have a history of repression in Venezuela and many fear that the army will decide not to hold elections until social order is restored.
We must not forget that there are interests on the part of several world powers in the Venezuelan conflict. In this regard, China and Russia expressed their support for the Nicolás Maduro regime in the Security Council at the UN; thus, they spoke out against a possible oil embargo by the United States. The geopolitical interests are clear since Russia and China have strong investments in the oil sector in Venezuela that would be affected if the United States continues with economic sanctions or if the government that replaces Maduro is pro-American. In 2015, Maduro made a trip to China, Russia and several countries in the Middle East. On this trip he secured an investment of 20 billion dollars from China and financing by some banks of OPEC countries. Evidently,This was not enough to stop the economic crisis, but it is clear that this type of tour in search of support reconfigures political loyalties.
That is why there is also the scenario of an indirect intervention. Several US officials have stated that no military intervention is being planned, but Vice President Mike Pence pledged unconditional support to the government of Guaidó at the recent meeting of the Lima Group in Bogotá. The US government has sent humanitarian assistance to the borders of Venezuela with Brazil and Colombia, to which Maduro has responded by closing them. Preventing the passage of humanitarian assistance seems to reveal that Maduro will not withdraw from power through peaceful means, raising the risk that Washington will choose to provide arms to neighboring countries, which could intervene in Venezuela in order to guarantee the protection of refugees and the sending humanitarian assistance.
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