2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis

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2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis
Part of the crisis in Venezuela
Maduro and Guaido seated.png
Nicolás Maduro (left), Juan Guaidó (right)
Date10 January 2019 (2019-01-10) – ongoing
(1 month and 13 days)
Location
Caused by
MethodsProtests, support campaigns, foreign diplomatic pressure and sanctions
StatusOngoing
  • Guaidó takes oath of office on 23 January
  • Several countries including the United States recognize Guaidó. Maduro then severs relations with the United States
  • The US government imposes sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA and transfers Venezuela's US assets to Guaidó
  • The pro-Maduro Supreme Tribunal of Justice freezes Guaidó's financial assets and imposes a travel ban against him
Parties to the civil conflict

A crisis concerning who is the legitimate President of Venezuela has been underway since 10 January 2019, when the opposition-majority National Assembly declared that incumbent Nicolás Maduro's 2018 reelection was invalid and the body declared its president, Juan Guaidó, to be acting president of the nation.

President of Venezuela head of state and head of government of Venezuela

The President of Venezuela, officially known as the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is the head of state and head of government in Venezuela's presidential system. The president leads the National Executive of the Venezuelan government and is the commander-in-chief of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces. Presidential terms were set at six years in with the adoption of the 1999 constitution, and re-election has been unlimited since 2009.

National Assembly (Venezuela) Parliament of Venezuela

The National Assembly is the de jure legislature for Venezuela that was first elected in 2000. The National Assembly has been rendered ceremonial since the introduction of the Constituent Assembly in 2017. It is a unicameral body made up of a variable number of members, who were elected by a "universal, direct, personal, and secret" vote partly by direct election in state-based voting districts, and partly on a state-based party-list proportional representation system. The number of seats is constant, each state and the Capital district elected three representatives plus the result of dividing the state population by 1.1% of the total population of the country. Three seats are reserved for representatives of Venezuela's indigenous peoples and elected separately by all citizens, not just those with indigenous backgrounds. For the 2010-2015 period the number of seats was 165. All deputies serve five-year terms. The National Assembly meets in the Federal Legislative Palace in Venezuela's capital, Caracas.

Nicolás Maduro 46th and current President of Venezuela

Nicolás Maduro Moros is a Venezuelan politician who served as the 46th President of Venezuela starting in 2013, eventually consolidating enough power to become the country's de facto dictator. He is currently not recognized as the legitimate president of Venezuela by over 50 countries and a number of international organisms including the OAE and the Lima Group. Maduro previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2013 and as Vice President of Venezuela from 2012 to 2013 under President Hugo Chávez.

Contents

The process and results of the May 2018 Venezuelan presidential election were widely disputed. [1] The National Assembly declared Maduro illegitimate on the day of his second inauguration, citing the 1999 Constitution of Venezuela enacted under Hugo Chávez, Maduro's predecessor; in response, the pro-Maduro Supreme Tribunal of Justice said the National Assembly's declaration was unconstitutional. [2]

2018 Venezuelan presidential election Election in Venezuela

Presidential elections were held in Venezuela on 20 May 2018, with incumbent Nicolás Maduro being re-elected for a second six-year term. Considered a snap election, the original electoral date was scheduled for December 2018 but was subsequently pulled ahead to 22 April before being pushed back to 20 May. Some analysts described the poll as a show election, with the elections having the lowest voter turnout in the country's democratic era.

Constitution of Venezuela the current and twenty-sixth constitution of Venezuela

The Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is the current and twenty-sixth constitution of Venezuela. It was drafted in mid-1999 by a constitutional assembly that had been created by popular referendum. Adopted in December 1999, it replaced the 1961 Constitution, the longest-serving in Venezuelan history. It was primarily promoted by then President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez and thereafter received strong backing from diverse sectors, including figures involved in promulgating the 1961 constitution such as Luis Miquilena and Carlos Andrés Pérez. Chávez and his followers (chavistas) refer to the 1999 document as the "Constitución Bolivariana" because they assert that it is ideologically descended from the thinking and political philosophy of Simón Bolívar and Bolivarianism. Since the creation of the Constituent National Assembly in August 2017, the Bolivarian government has declared the 1999 constitution suspended until a new constitution is created.

Hugo Chávez 48th President of Venezuela

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was a Venezuelan politician who was President of Venezuela from 1999 to 2013. Chávez was also leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when it merged with several other parties to form the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which he led until 2012.

Mass demonstrations throughout Venezuela and the world occurred on 23 January when Guaidó called for Venezuelans to protest against Maduro. [4] [5] Demonstrations in support of Maduro and Chavismo took place as well. [6] Special meetings in the Organization of American States (OAS) on 24 January and in the United Nations Security Council on 26 January were held but no consensus was reached. Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres called for dialogue. [7]

2019 Venezuelan protests Ongoing protests

The 2019 Venezuelan protests are a collection of protests that have been organised, since 11 January, as a coordinated effort to remove Nicolás Maduro from the presidency. Demonstrations began following Maduro's controversial second inauguration, developing into a presidential crisis between Maduro and National Assembly president Juan Guaidó. The protests also include counter-demonstrations organised by those who support Maduro and have taken to the street to support him.

<i>Chavismo</i> Left-wing political ideology

Chavismo, also known as Chavism and Chavezism, is a left-wing political ideology based on the ideas, programs and government style associated with the former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that combines elements of socialism, left-wing populism, patriotism, internationalism, Bolivarianism, feminism, green politics and Caribbean and Latin American integration.

Organization of American States international organization

The Organization of American States, or the OAS or OEA, is a continental organization that was founded on 30 April 1948, for the purposes of regional solidarity and cooperation among its member states. Headquartered in the United States capital Washington, D.C., the OAS's members are the 35 independent states of the Americas.

Maduro's government says the crisis is a coup d'état led by the United States to topple him and control the country's oil reserves. [8] [9] [10] Guaidó denies the coup allegations, saying peaceful volunteers back his movement. [11]

<i>Coup détat</i> Sudden deposition of a government; illegal and overt seizure of a state by the military or other elites within the state apparatus

A coup d'état, also known as a putsch, a golpe, or simply as a coup, means the overthrow of an existing government; typically, this refers to an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a dictator, the military, or a political faction.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Oil reserves in Venezuela

The proven oil reserves in Venezuela are recognized as the largest in the world, totaling 297 billion barrels (4.72×1010 m3) as of 1 January 2014. In early 2011, then-president Hugo Chávez and the Venezuelan government announced that the nation's oil reserves had surpassed that of the previous long-term world leader, Saudi Arabia. OPEC said that Saudi Arabia's reserves stood at 265 billion barrels (4.21×1010 m3) in 2009.

Background

Since 2010, Venezuela has been suffering a socioeconomic crisis under Nicolás Maduro (and briefly under his predecessor, Hugo Chávez), as rampant crime, hyperinflation and shortages diminish the quality of life. [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] As a result of discontent with the government, the opposition was elected to hold the majority in the National Assembly for the first time since 1999 following the 2015 parliamentary election. [17] After the election, the lame duck National Assembly—consisting of Bolivarian officials—filled the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the highest court in Venezuela, with Maduro allies. [17] [18] The tribunal stripped three opposition lawmakers of their National Assembly seats in early 2016, citing alleged "irregularities" in their elections, thereby preventing an opposition supermajority which would have been able to challenge President Maduro. [17]

Crime in Venezuela is widespread, with violent crimes such as murder and kidnapping increasing annually. The United Nations has attributed crime to the poor political and economic environment in the country, which has the second highest murder rate in the world. Crime has grown so pervasive in Venezuela that the military is ordered to avoid public places during nighttime hours since criminals often attempt to steal their weapons, with robberies in the country often targeting unaware individuals using a kill first, steal later method.

Hyperinflation very high and rapidly accelerating inflation

In economics, hyperinflation is very high and typically accelerating inflation. It quickly erodes the real value of the local currency, as the prices of all goods increase. This causes people to minimize their holdings in that currency as they usually switch to more stable foreign currencies, often the US Dollar. Prices typically remain stable in terms of other relatively stable currencies.

Shortages in Venezuela shortages of basic goods and others commodities due to the economic crisis in Venezuela

Shortages in Venezuela of regulated food staples and basic necessities have been widespread following the enactment of price controls and other policies under the government of Hugo Chávez and exacerbated by the policy of withholding United States dollars from importers under the government of Nicolás Maduro. The severity of the shortages has led to the largest refugee crisis ever recorded in the Americas. The Venezuelan government's denial of the crisis and its refusal to accept offers of aid from Amnesty International, the United Nations, and other groups has made conditions even worse. The United Nations and the Organization of American States have stated that the shortages have resulted in unnecessary deaths in Venezuela and urged the government to accept humanitarian aid.

In January 2016, the National Assembly of Venezuela declared a "health humanitarian crisis" given the "serious shortage of medicines, medical supplies and deterioration of humanitarian infrastructure", asking Maduro's government to "guarantee immediate access to the list of essential medicines that are basic and indispensable and that must be accessible at all times". [19]

The tribunal approved several actions by Maduro and granted him more powers in 2017. [17] As protests mounted against Maduro, he called for a constituent assembly that would draft a new constitution to replace the 1999 Venezuela Constitution created under Chávez. [20] Many countries considered these actions a bid by Maduro to stay in power indefinitely, [21] and over 40 countries stated that they would not recognize the National Constituent Assembly. [22] [23] The Democratic Unity Roundtable the opposition to the incumbent ruling partyboycotted the election, saying that the Constituent Assembly was "a trick to keep [the incumbent ruling party] in power". [24] Since the opposition did not participate in the election, the incumbent Great Patriotic Pole, dominated by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, won almost all seats in the assembly by default. [25] [26] [27] On 8 August 2017, the Constituent Assembly declared itself to be the government branch with supreme power in Venezuela, banning the opposition-led National Assembly from performing actions that would interfere with the assembly while continuing to pass measures in "support and solidarity" with President Maduro, effectively stripping the National Assembly of all its powers. [28]

Maduro disavowed the National Assembly in 2017; [29] as of 2018, some considered the National Assembly the only "legitimate" institution left in the country, [lower-alpha 1] and human rights organizations said there were no independent institutional checks on presidential power. [lower-alpha 2]

2018 election and calls for transitional government

A June 2018 video with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein discussing the crisis in Venezuela

In February 2018, Maduro called for presidential elections four months before the prescribed date. [41] He was declared the winner in May 2018 after multiple major opposition parties were banned from participating, among other irregularities; many said the elections were invalid. [42] [43] [44] [45] Politicians both internally and internationally said Maduro was not legitimately elected, [46] and considered him an ineffective dictator. [47] [48] [49] In the months leading up to his 10 January 2019 inauguration, Maduro was pressured to step down by nations and bodies including the Lima Group (excluding Mexico), the United States, and the OAS; this pressure was increased after the new National Assembly of Venezuela was sworn in on 5 January 2019. [50] [51] [52]

Between the May 2018 presidential election and Maduro's inauguration, there were calls to establish a transitional government. [53] [54] [55] CEO of Venezuela Al Día , Manuel Corao, argued that Maduro was no longer the president and that "the tendencies in Venezuela represented in the National Assembly [wish to] designate a transitional government that fills the vacuum of power and liberates Venezuelans from Communist evil". [53] Former Venezuelan legislator Alexis Ortiz stated that "Castrochavism [...] rots in incompetence, corruption, and surrender of national sovereignty", calling on a transitional government to work on reconciliation, establish general elections, receive humanitarian assistance and protect civil liberties, among other requests. [54]

A November 2018 report by the International Crisis Group said that "[n]eighboring countries and other foreign powers have taken steps–including sanction–to achieve some kind of negotiated transition, which is still the best way out of the crisis". [55]

In December 2018, Guaidó had traveled to Washington D.C. and met with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, and then on 14 January 2019 to Colombia for a Lima Group meeting, in which Maduro's mandate was rejected. [56] According to an article in El País , the January Lima Group meeting and the stance taken by Canada's Chrystia Freeland were key. [56] El País describes Trump's election—coinciding with the election of conservative presidents in Colombia and Brazil, along with deteriorating conditions in Venezuela—as "a perfect storm", with decisions influenced by US vice-president Mike Pence, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security advisor John R. Bolton, and legislators Mario Díaz-Balart and Marco Rubio. [56] Venezuelans Carlos Vecchio, Julio Borges and Gustavo Tarre were consulted, and the Trump administration decision to back Guaidó formed on 22 January, according to El País. [56] Díaz-Balart said that the decision was the result of two years of planning. [56]

Justification for the challenge

The Venezuelan opposition bases its actions on the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution, specifically Articles 233, 333 and 350. [57] The first paragraph of Article 233 states: "The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability; ... abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote."

Later paragraphs describe what to do in the event of a vacancy due to "permanent unavailability to serve", depending on when the vacancy occurs:

Article 233 was invoked after death of Hugo Chávez, which took place soon after his inauguration, and extraordinary elections were called within thirty days. In 2019, the National Assembly invoked Article 233 due to abandonment of [President's] position, arguing that "de facto dictatorship" means no democratic leader. [58] Invoked by the National Assembly, Guaidó was declared interim president for thirty days until elections could be held; Diego A. Zambrano, an assistant professor of law at Stanford Law School, says that "Venezuelan lawyers disagree on the best reading of this provision. Some argue Guaidó can serve longer if the electoral process is scheduled within a reasonable time". [59] The National Assembly announced that it will designate a committee to appoint a new National Electoral Council, in anticipation of free elections. [60]

Article 333 calls for citizens to restore and enforce the Constitution if it is not followed. Article 350 calls for citizens to "disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values". The National Assembly argues that both the national and international community must unite behind a transitional government that will guarantee humanitarian aid, bring the restoration of Venezuela's rule of law, and will hold democratic elections. [61]

Opposition strategy

The National Assembly and the opposition have maintained a three-step position and a strategy through the crisis to restore democracy in the country: [62]

Translation

  1. Cessation of the usurpation
  2. Transitional government
  3. Free elections

Spanish

  1. Cese de la usurpación
  2. Gobierno de transición
  3. Elecciones libres

Events

Inauguration of Maduro

Maduro at his second inauguration on 10 January 2019 Nicolas Maduro 2019 Inauguration.jpg
Maduro at his second inauguration on 10 January 2019

Signs of impending crisis showed when a Supreme Court Justice and Electoral Justice seen as close to Maduro defected to the United States just a few days before the 10 January 2019 second inauguration of Nicolás Maduro. The justice, Christian Zerpa  [ es ], said that Nicolás Maduro was "incompetent" and "illegitimate". [50] [51] [63] Minutes after Maduro took the oath as president of Venezuela, the Organization of American States approved a resolution in a special session of its Permanent Council declaring Maduro's presidency illegitimate and urging new elections. [64] Maduro's election was supported by Turkey, Russia, China, and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA); [65] [66] other small Caribbean nations reliant on economic assistance from the Maduro government (such as Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago) attended his inauguration. [67]

At the time of the inauguration, The Times reported that US intelligence had allegedly learned that Minister of Defense, Vladimir Padrino López, had requested that Maduro step down, threatening to resign if Maduro did not. [68] On 15 January 2019, Padrino López swore loyalty to Maduro, stating that members of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela (FANB) "are willing to die to defend that Constitution, those people, those institutions and you as supreme magistrate, president of Venezuela". [69] [69]

Maduro's government stated that the positions against him were the "result of imperialism perpetrated by the United States and allies" that put Venezuela "at the centre of a world war". [70]

Public assembly

Juan Guaido surrounded by members of the opposition during the public assembly on 11 January 2019 Juan Guaido open cabildo 11 January 2019.jpg
Juan Guaidó surrounded by members of the opposition during the public assembly on 11 January 2019

Juan Guaidó, the newly appointed President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, began motions to form a provisional government shortly after assuming his new role on 5 January 2019, stating that regardless if Maduro began his new term on the 10th, the country would not have a legitimately elected president. [71] On behalf of the National Assembly, he stated that the country had fallen into a de facto dictatorship and had no leader, [72] declaring that the nation faced a state of emergency. [58] He called for "soldiers who wear their uniforms with honor to step forward and enforce the Constitution", and asked "citizens for confidence, strength, and to accompany us on this path". [58]

Guaidó announced a public assembly, referred to as an open cabildo, on 11 January [73] —a rally in the streets of Caracas, where the National Assembly announced that Guaidó was assuming the role of the acting president under the Constitution of Venezuela and announcing plans to remove President Maduro. [74] Leaders of other political parties, trade unions, women, and the students of Venezuela were given a voice at the rally; other parties did not speak of a divide, but of what they saw as a failed Bolivarian Revolution that needed to end. [74]

Maduro's response was to call the opposition a group of "little boys", describing Guaidó as "immature". The Minister for Prison Services, Iris Varela, threatened that she had picked out a prison cell for Guaidó and asked him to be quick in naming his cabinet so she could prepare prison cells for them as well. [75]

National Assembly declares Guaidó interim president

Agreement approved by the National Assembly to declare the usurpation of the presidency by Nicolas Maduro on 15 January. Acuerdo sobre la declaratoria de usurpacion de la presidencia de la republica por parte de Nicolas Maduro Moros y el restablecimiento de la vigencia de la constitucion - Pagina 1.jpg
Agreement approved by the National Assembly to declare the usurpation of the presidency by Nicolás Maduro on 15 January.

Following Guaidó's speech, the National Assembly released a press statement saying that Guaidó had assumed the role of acting president. A later statement clarified the position of Guaidó as "willing to assume command ... only possible with the help of Venezuelans". [76] The opposition did not consider this a coup d'état based on the acknowledged "illegitimacy" of Maduro by many governments, and the constitutional processes that the National Assembly said they were following, [77] specifically invoking Articles 233, 333, and 350 of the Constitution. [74] The president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Venezuela in exile (based in Panama) wrote to Guaidó, requesting him to become acting president of Venezuela. [78]

On 15 January 2019, the National Assembly approved legislation to work with dozens of foreign countries to request that these nations freeze Maduro administration bank accounts. [79] Guaidó wrote a 15 January 2019 opinion piece in The Washington Post entitled "Maduro is a usurper. It’s time to restore democracy in Venezuela"; he outlined Venezuela's erosion of democracy and his reasoning for the need to replace Maduro on an interim basis according to Venezuela's constitution. [80]

Guaidó announced nationwide protests to be held on 23 January—the same day as the removal of Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958—using a slogan chant of ¡Sí se puede!. [77] [81] The National Assembly worked with a coalition (Frente Amplio Venezuela Libre) to create a plan for the demonstrations, organizing a unified national force. [82] On 11 January, plans to offer incentives for the armed forces to disavow Maduro were revealed. [83] Venezuelan political experts, like David Smilde from the Washington Office on Latin America, suggested that this action would enrage Maduro, who already called the National Assembly traitors for not attending his inauguration, and who might arrest or attack more of its members. A friend of Guaidó, in response, said that they were aware of the risks but believed it needed to be done to allow democracy to reappear in Venezuela. [77]

Luis Almagro (Secretary-General of the OAS) was the first to give official support to this action, tweeting "We welcome the assumption of Juan Guaidó as interim President of Venezuela in accordance with Article 233 of the Political Constitution. You have our support, that of the international community and of the people of Venezuela." [77] Later on that day, Brazil and Colombia gave their support to Guaidó as acting president of Venezuela. [84]

Detention of Guaidó and rebellion within the National Guard

Guaidó was detained on 13 January by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) [85] and released 45 minutes later. [86] The SEBIN agents who intercepted his car and took him into custody were fired. [87] [88] The Information Minister, Jorge Rodríguez, said the agents did not have instructions and the arrest was orchestrated by Guaidó as a "media stunt" to gain popularity; BBC News correspondents said that it appeared to be a genuine ambush to send a message to the opposition. [87] Almagro condemned the arrest, which he called a "kidnapping", while Mike Pompeo, United States Secretary of State, referred to it as an "arbitrary detention". [89]

After his detention, Guaidó said that Rodríguez's admission that the SEBIN agents acted independently showed that the government had lost control of its security forces; he called Miraflores (the presidential house and office) "desperate". [87] [89] In a later announcement, he declared himself acting president, his most direct claim to the position. [90]

Two journalists—Beatriz Adrián of Caracol Televisión and Osmary Hernández of CNN—were detained while on-air and covering the event. [91]

In early 2019, a group of Venezuelan ex-army and police officers in Peru announced support for Guaidó, disclaiming Maduro. [92] [93] Multiple groups of similarly retired or displaced soldiers said that they would return to fight Maduro if needed. [94] It was also reported that though the top military swore allegiance to Maduro, many had spoken to exiled and defected soldiers to express their wish to not suppress any uprising that could oust Maduro, secretly supporting Guaidó. [95] The National Assembly offered amnesty for military defectors. [96]

Early on 21 January, at least 27 soldiers of the Venezuelan National Guard stationed near Miraflores Palace mutinied against Maduro. The Guardian reported that they kidnapped four security staff and stole weaponry from a post in Petare, and posted videos on social media promising the military would fight against the government. Rioting and arson took place in the area and tear gas was used on civilian protestors. After overnight fighting, the soldiers were taken by authorities. [97] [98] Five were injured [99] and one person died in the mutiny: a civilian woman who was confused for a protester was killed by members of a colectivo. [100] The BBC compared the mutiny to the El Junquito raid a year earlier, which resulted in the death of rebel leader Óscar Pérez. [101]

Guaidó swears oath as interim president

23 January march in Caracas

On 23 January, Guaidó swore to serve as Interim President. [102] Smaller protests had been building prior to that day. On that morning, Guaidó tweeted, "The world's eyes are on our homeland today." [103] [104] On that day, millions of Venezuelans [105] demonstrated across the country and world in support of Guaidó, [4] [5] described as "a river of humanity", [106] with a few hundred supporting Maduro outside Miraflores. [6] [107]

The opposition march was planned for a 10:00 a.m. start, but was delayed for 30 minutes due to rain. [108] [109] At one end of the blocked street was a stage where Guaidó spoke and took an oath to serve as interim president, [110] [111] swearing himself in. [112]

Before the protest began, the Venezuelan National Guard used tear gas on gathering crowds at other locations. [110] Another area of the capital was blocked off at Plaza Venezuela, a large main square, with armored vehicles and riot police on hand before protestors arrived. [103] Photographic reports showed that some protests grew violent, resulting in injuries to both protesters and security. [113] By the end of the day, at least 13 people were killed. [114] Michelle Bachelet of the United Nations expressed concern that so many had been killed and requested a UN investigation into the security forces' use of violence. [115]

Maduro's response

Maduro accused the US of backing a coup, and said he would cut ties with them. [116] He said Guaidó's actions were part of a "well-written script from Washington" to create a puppet state of the United States. [117]

In a 25 January statement, Maduro asked for dialogue with Guaidó, saying "if I have to go meet this boy in the Pico Humboldt at three in the morning I am going, [...] if I have to go naked, I am going, [I believe] that today, sooner rather than later, the way is open for a reasonable, sincere dialogue". [118] He stated he would not leave the presidential office, saying that he was elected in compliance with the Venezuelan constitution. [119] With the two giving speeches to supporters at the same time, Guaidó quickly replied to Maduro's call for dialogue, saying he would not initiate diplomatic talks with Maduro because he believed it would be a farce and fake diplomacy that couldn't achieve anything. [120]

On 31 January, Maduro sent a video appeal to the American people asking them not to convert Venezuela into another Vietnam. [121]

Guaidó appointments

On 27 January, Guaidó began to appoint individuals to serve as aides or diplomats. Carlos Vecchio was accredited by Pompeo as the Guaidó administration's diplomatic envoy to the US. [122] Gustavo Tarre was named Venezuela's Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States, [123] and Julio Borges was named to represent Venezuela in the Lima Group. [124] The National Assembly made more than a dozen [125] [126] other diplomatic appointments, including Elisa Trotta Gamus to Argentina, [127] [128] María Teresa Belandria to Brazil, [126] and Humberto Calderón Berti to Colombia. [129] [130]

Entry of humanitarian aid

Location of the humanitarian aid points outside of Venezuela Map of humanitarian aid to Venezuela.png
Location of the humanitarian aid points outside of Venezuela

Shortages in Venezuela have occurred since the presidency of Hugo Chávez, with the country experiencing a scarcity rate of 24.7% in 2007. [131] The scarcity rate decreased until 2012, when shortages became commonplace in the country. [131] In 2016, the National Assembly of Venezuela had declared a humanitarian crisis considering "serious shortage of medicines, medical supplies and deterioration of humanitarian infrastructure", asking Maduro's government to provide access to essential medicines and medical supplies. [132] In the years before the presidential crisis, the Maduro government denied several offers of aid, stating that there was not a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and that such claims were only used to justify foreign intervention. [133] [134] [135] [136] Maduro's refusal of aid worsened the effects of Venezuela's crisis. [133] [134] [135] [136]

Shortly before his second inauguration event, in November 2018, the Maduro government received $9.2 million from the UN that was to be designated for medical equipment and food supplies. [137] Concerns were raised that the UN funding would be lost to corruption in Maduro's government. [137] Following the presidential crisis, Maduro initially refused aid, stating that Venezuela is not a country of "beggars", [138] though he accepted and paid for humanitarian aid from Russia days later. [138] [139]

External images
Searchtool.svg Satellite images of a Guaidó rally on 2 February 2019, 11:05 AM VET
Searchtool.svg Satellite images of a Maduro rally on 2 February 2019, 11:05 AM VET

On 2 February, Guaidó began to lead nationwide demonstrations demanding the entrance of humanitarian aid into Venezuela, with hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans protesting in support of Guaidó. [140] [141] According to France 24, Guaidó has made bringing humanitarian aid to the "hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who could die if aid does not arrive" a priority, and a test of the military's allegiance. [142] He also requested aid from the United Nations, which was denied because the UN says the request must come from Maduro. [143] Guaidó said Venezuela's neighbors, in a "global coalition to send aid to Venezuela", will help get humanitarian aid and medicine into the country; products will be shipped to neighboring ports and brought overland via convoys. [144] He called it a test of the military: "In a few weeks they will have to choose if they let much needed aid into the country, or if they side with Nicolas Maduro." [144] The US pledged $20 million, [145] and Canada pledged $53 million Canadian dollars in humanitarian aid, saying most of it would go to Venezuela's neighbors and trusted partners. [146] Germany, [147] Sweden, [148] Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and the European Commission also pledged aid. [142] At the Conference on Humanitarian Assistance in Support of Venezuela hosted by the OAS in Washington, D.C., John Bolton announced that 25 countries pledged US$100 million for humanitarian aid to be delivered to Venezuela via centers in Curacao, Colombia and Brazil. [149] Brazil has pledged to make humanitarian aid available at the town of Pacaraima on the its side of the Brazil–Venezuela border so Venezuelans can drive it into their country. [150]

Las Tienditas International Bridge blocked by Maduro to prevent the entry of humanitarian aid to Venezuela International Bridge Las Tienditas Blocked by the Government of Maduro.jpg
Las Tienditas International Bridge blocked by Maduro to prevent the entry of humanitarian aid to Venezuela

In response to Guaidó's call for humanitarian assistance, Maduro prevented aid from entering from Venezuela. [142] Shortly after the announcement that international humanitarian aid would enter via the Colombia–Venezuela border, PSUV politician and former elite policeman Freddy Bernal appeared at the border with members of the armed forces and the FAES. [151] The Tienditas Bridge on the Colombia–Venezuela border was blocked by the Venezuelan National Guard, using shipping containers and tanker truck. [152] [153] The bridge had never been opened after it was completed in 2016, due to the Venezuela–Colombia migrant crisis, [154] and was previously closed with fences and concrete block. [155] [156] Diosdado Cabello threatened that any planes that tried to bring aid into the country would be shot down. [157] Maduro denied that Venezuela needs aid, saying "We are not beggars". [153] [158]

Guaidó stated that the Maduro administration had plans to "steal the products for humanitarian purposes that entered the country". [159] This included plans to distribute these products through the government's food distribution program CLAP [159] —a program from which, according to the 2017 Venezuelan Attorney General, Maduro personally profits. [lower-alpha 3] Miguel Pizarro warned the military not to cross a red line and deny entry to humanitarian aid. [142]

As the first trucks with aid, escorted by Colombian police, approached the blocked bridge on 7 February, human rights activists received them, and Venezuela's communications minister, Jorge Rodriguez said there was a plot between Colombia, the CIA and exiled Venezuelan politician Julio Borges to oust Maduro. [158] During a speech on 8 February, Maduro voiced his opinions on why he had denied international aid and after stating "With humanitarian aid they want to treat us like beggars ... in Venezuela we have the capacity to take care of our children and women. There is no humanitarian crisis here". [165] While Guaidó attempted to secure international aid, Maduro shipped over 100 tons of aid to Cuba following a tornado that devastated Havana. [166]

Leaders of Pemon groups stated on 9 February that they would not abide by Maduro's orders and would allow aid into Venezuela through its border with Brazil. [167] Mayor Emilio Gonzalez of Gran Sabana stated that "Neither the National Guard not the government can stop this" while another Pemon leader Angel Paez stated "If humanitarian aid arrives and is prevented from entering, we will suspend the entry of government trucks too". [167]

During an 11 February BBC interview, Maduro said, "[t]he Ku Klux Klan that governs the White House today wants to seize Venezuela" and that "Venezuela is not a country of famine. It has very high levels of nutrients and access to food." [168] Guaidó issued an 11-day ultimatum to the Venezuelan Armed Forces on 12 February, stating that humanitarian aid will enter Venezuela on 23 February and that the armed forces "will have to decide if it will be on the side of the Venezuelans and the Constitution or the usurper". [169]

Humanitarian aid for Venezuela sent by the United States to Colombia in February 2019 Humanitarian aid for Venezuela in February 2019.jpg
Humanitarian aid for Venezuela sent by the United States to Colombia in February 2019

On 13 February, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez claimed that humanitarian aid provided by the US was considered "carcinogenic" and part of a plot to kill Venezuelan citizens. [170] She also claimed that "this so-called food from the United States aims to poison our population with chemicals" and described it as "biological weapons". [170] USAID administrator Mark Green described the allegations as "absurd". [171] Venezuelan deputy and medic José Manuel Olivares  [ es ] dismissed her claims, clarifying that "the aid has quality control and sanitary registry of Colombia, Brazil and the United States." [172] Delcy's remarks were also dismissed by the United States, saying that the Maduro government "would go to any length to lie and deny reality". [173]

Former Amazonas governor Liborio Guarulla announced on 14 February that the humanitarian aid started entering in the Amazonas state through the Guainía, Atabapo and Orinoco rivers with help of NGO's, the Colombian government and indigenous organizations. [174]

British philanthropist Richard Branson announced on 14 February the production of a concert in Cúcuta, Colombia, Venezuela Aid Live, to be held on 22 February to raise money and support for aid to enter Venezuela. [175] The Maduro government responded by saying it will hold its own concert called "Hands off Venezuela" on the Simón Bolívar International Bridge on 22 and 23 February. [176]

Venezuelan Dragoon 300s were deployed in Gran Sabana, near Pemon areas Tanqueta militar.JPG
Venezuelan Dragoon 300s were deployed in Gran Sabana, near Pemon areas

As of 17 February, humanitarian campsites were installed in at least ten states nationwide; the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence detained seven people that were installing the awnings, chairs and sound equipment of the humanitarian campsite in Maracay. [177] On 18 February, Maduro announced that he would accept and pay for humanitarian aid from Russia. [139] Maduro stated that the Russian-provided aid was to total 300 tons of goods, that other nations would provide him aid through the United Nations and that the goods offered by Guaidó were "rotten food, contaminated". [139]

Maduro's government closed airways and its maritime borders with the Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao on 19 February, in a move that Curacao officials say is to prevent aid from entering. [178]

On 20 February, Maduro mobilized armored vehicles to prevent people from entering Brazil in pursuit of humanitarian aid, with Dragoon 300 armoured fighting vehicles of the Armored Cavalry Squadron seen entering the Gran Sabana region. [179] Groups of indigenous Pemon peoples blocked the entry of seven military vehicles into Gran Sabana, [180] and members of armed forces loyal to Maduro fired upon them with live ammunition on 22 February. [180] Twelve Pemon were injured, four seriously, and one Pemon woman was killed. [181] The injured were transferred to Brazil due to the shortage of medical supplies in Venezuela. [180]

Controversies

Censorship and media control

Several sources reported that starting 11 January 2019, internet access to Wikipedia (in all languages) was blocked in Venezuela [182] [183] after Guaidó's page on the Spanish Wikipedia was edited to show him as president. [184] The block mainly affected the users of the state-run CANTV, the national telecommunications company and largest provider of the country. [185] Several media outlets have suggested that Wikipedia directly or indirectly was taking sides with either group. [186] [187] [188]

NetBlocks showing blocks of Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube on 21 January 2019 Netblocks-venezuela-social-block.png
NetBlocks showing blocks of Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube on 21 January 2019

Later on 21 January, the day of a National Guard mutiny in Cotiza, internet access to some social media like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube was reported blocked for CANTV users. The Venezuelan government denied it had engaged in blocking. [189] In the late evening of 22 January, it was reported that Twitter and Instagram were completely blocked in the country, possibly to suppress the organization of the protests happening the next day. [190]

During 23 January protests, widespread internet outages for CANTV users were reported, with Wikipedia, [191] Google Search, Facebook, Instagram, and many other social media platforms affected. [192] The widespread regional internet blackouts occurred again on 26 to 27 January. [193] [194]

Several live streams of the National Assembly sessions and Guaidó's speeches have been disrupted for CANTV users, mainly affecting access to streaming platforms like Periscope, YouTube, and other Google services. [195] [196] [197] [198]

Canal 24 Horas, a news channel owned by Chile's public broadcaster, Televisión Nacional, was removed from Venezuela's cable and satellite television operators by the state-run National Commission of Telecommunications (Conatel) on 24 January. [199]

Since 22 January, Conatel has repeatedly advised against the promotion of violence and the disavowing of institutional authorities, according to the Law on Social Responsibility on Radio and Television imposed in 2004. [200] Some radio programs have been ordered off air, including Cesar Miguel Rondón's radio program, one of the most listened-to programs in the country. Other programs have been temporarily canceled or received censorship warnings, including a threat to close private television and radio stations if they recognize Guaidó as acting president or interim president of Venezuela. [201] [202] [203]

Arrests of press personnel

Between 29 and 30 January, at least eleven press personnel were arrested. [204] On the evening of 29 January, four journalists were arrested by the Maduro government while reporting near the Miraflores presidential palace—Venezuelan journalists Ana Rodríguez of VPI TV and Maiker Yriarte of TV Venezuela, and Chilean journalists Rodrigo Pérez and Gonzalo Barahona of TVN Chile. [205] The two Venezuelan journalists were released; the Chilean journalists were deported. [206]

Two French journalists from French TV show, Quotidien , and their Venezuelan producer were detained for two days at El Helicoide on 30 January. [207] [208] [209] Three press workers of EFE were also arrested by SEBIN and DGCIM—a Colombian photographer, a Colombian companion, and a Spanish companion. [204]

Jorge Arreaza, Venezuelan Minister for Foreign Affairs, defended the detentions, stating that press workers were part "of the media operation against the country" that wanted "to create a media scandal" by not "complying with the minimum prerequisites required by Venezuelan law". Press organizations stated that they complied with the migration laws of Venezuela. [210] Maduro denied that journalists were detained by authorities. [211]

Phishing

The website "Voluntarios X Venezuela" was promoted by Guaidó and the National Assembly to gather volunteers for humanitarian aid; [212] as of 16 February, Guaidó said 600,000 people had signed up. [213] Between 12 and 13 February, CANTV users that tried to access were redirected to a mirror site with a different URL address. The mirror site asked for personal information: names, ID, address and telephone numbers. The fake site also hosted other phishing websites with the aim of obtaining email addresses, usernames and passwords. All the phishing websites used the .ve domain controlled by Conatel. This manipulation was denounced as a technique to identify dissidents to the government. [214] [215] [216] [217] Following the phishing incident, the official site was completely blocked for CANTV users on 16 February. [218]

Defections

Diplomatic

Following the 23 January events, some Venezuelan diplomats in the United States supported Guaidó; the majority returned to Venezuela on Maduro's orders. [219] Venezuela's ambassador in Iraq, Jonathan Velasco, recognized Guaidó, indicating that the National Assembly is the only government branch "associated with ethics, legitimacy and legality" and responsible for filling the "power vacuum created by the violation of the constitution". [220] [221] The Consul general of Venezuela in Houston recognized Guaidó, saying "I am at your service and at your disposal to serve my country." [219] Although consular officers destroyed thousand of documents from the ambassador's office and both the administration and consular section, nine officials decided to stay. [222]

The top Venezuelan consular officer in Miami supported Guaidó, stating "it [follows] my democratic principles and values" and urging other diplomats to "embrace the Constitution" and join Guaidó in trying to force new elections. [223] Two consular officials in Chicago recognized Guaidó, saying they wanted to be "associated with democratic principles and values". [224]

Military

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said the armed forces would not recognize Juan Guaido Vladimir Padrino Lopez (2018-04-03) 1.jpg
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said the armed forces would not recognize Juan Guaidó

The Miami Herald reported that the Maduro regime feared a military uprising and defections, had made many arrests, and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López ordered a counterintelligence effort to locate conspiracists or possible defectors. [225] According to France 24, Maduro said "military deserters who fled to Colombia have become mercenaries" as part of a US-backed coup. [226] CBS News said that rank-and-file troops, who made about US$6 per month, were hungry and pushed to a tipping point. [227]

Guaidó said that the opposition had held secret meetings with military officials to discuss the Amnesty Law. An opposition representative said that the meetings were focused on army officers, who were amenable to the idea and "expressed concern about the Trump administration's past threats of military intervention in Venezuela and [...] that the armed forces would be outgunned in any fight". Analysts warned that the meetings could potentially only win partial support and divide the military, which could lead to a civil war or coup. [94]

In February, the Venezuelan Air Force's head of strategic planning, divisional general Francisco Esteban Yánez Rodríguez, recognized Guaidó as interim president on 2 February 2019, stating: "Today, with patriotic and democratic pride, I inform you that I do not recognize the irritating and dictatorial authority of Mr. Nicolás Maduro and I recognize Deputy Juan Guaidó as the Interim President of Venezuela, for which I worthily place myself at your service". He said that 90% of the armed forces would back Guaidó if needed. [228] [229] Air Force general Víctor Romero Meléndez supported Guaidó and called upon the Armed Forces to "support the people and the constitution". [230] Retired air force major general Jorge Oropeza recognized Guaidó as interim president, [231] as did lieutenant colonel Andrés Eloy Volcán. [232] During an opposition protest in Barquisimeto, Lara state, officers of the Bolivarian National Police withdrew after they were asked by protesters to leave. One of the policemen said "I prefer to withdraw my men than to repress the people." [233] [234] In San Cristóbal, Táchira state, National Guardsmen withdrew from a protest meeting point to allow the installation of a scaffold. [235] The next day, the police chief of Valera, Trujillo state, Raúl Eliezer Álvarez, and five other officers disavowed Maduro's government as a "narcodictator regime". [236] Carlos Guyon Celis, a former captain who participated in the first 1992 coup d'état attempt, expressed support for Juan Guaidó on the anniversary of the 4 February coup attempt, and called upon the Armed Forces to "cut the chains that oppress the people since 20 years". [237] Venepress published an alleged audio of an aviation officer who said that the Armed Forces are weakened and that officers would not defend Maduro. [238] The top Venezuelan military representative to the United States, Colonel José Luis Silva, recognized Guaidó as his president. [239] On 17 February, five military personnel and snipers were arrested by the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence in Ureña, Táchira state, after publishing a video in which they declared support for Guaidó. [240]

Other

On 21 February 2019, Hugo Carvajal deputy of the National Assembly for the state of Monagas and former head of military intelligence in Venezuela during Hugo Chávez presidency, made a video in support of Guaidó as interim president and criticized the Maduro regime. Carvajal called for Venezuelan military forces to break ranks and to allow the entry of humanitarian aid to Venezuela. Carvajal was known for his closeness to Hugo Chávez and was considered as a pro-Maduro legislator. [241] [242]

Expulsion of European Parliament members

On 18 February, Maduro's government expelled a group of Members of the European Parliament that planned to meet Juan Guaidó. The foreign ministers of Spain, Josep Borrell, and of France, Jean-Yves Le Drian, condemned the expulsion of the parliamentarians. [243]

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza defended the expulsions, [244] saying that the constitutional government of Venezuela "will not allow the European extreme right to disturb the peace and stability of the country with another of its gross interventionist actions" and added that "Venezuela must be respected." [245]

Foreign aid

NPR says that critics say the offer of humanitarian aid by the United States is designed as a way to place pressure on Maduro and to increase dissent among the Venezuelan armed forces, [246] and that the US is using a similar tactic that Russia used in Ukraine, where 250 Russian trucks entered to deliver aid in 2014. [246] Colombia, and Venezuela's neighboring countries, "are the most interested in seeing aid brought in", according to CNN, to "help reduce the wave of Venezuelan refugees pouring across their borders." [247] Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Colombia's foreign minister, said that blocking aid was a crime that "would give even more reason ... to ask the International Criminal Court to investigate Maduro". [153]

The United Nations (UN) stated that "[v]ast numbers of Venezuelans are starving, deprived of essential medicines, and trying to survive in a situation that is spiraling downwards with no end in sight"; [248] it recommended increased humanitarian funding for Venezuelans, [249] and cautioned not to politicize aid. [250] The UN said that "humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives", [250] and calls for a de-escalation of tension from both sides. [247]

The International Committee of the Red Cross "warned the United States about the risks of delivering humanitarian aid to Venezuela without the approval of security forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro". It also said its ability to work in the current environment in Venezuela was limited" and that it could "not ... implement things that have a political tone”. [251] For the Red Cross, maintaining a neutral stance in political situations is most important; [247] the organization holds that, for aid to be effective, both sides of the conflict should come to agreement. [247] Having worked with local authorities inside Venezuela for a long time delivering relief, [156] in February 2019 the organization had talks with the Venezuelan Ministry of Health about increasing its budget. [251] Later in the month it doubled its Venezuela budget to 15.8 million euros (US$17.9 million). [252] Later in a scuffle with aid workers on the Brazil border some people died. [253]

Military intervention

In early 2019, with Cuban and Russian-backed security forces in the country, potential United States military involvement was reported. [254] According to professor Erick Langer of Georgetown University, "Cuba and Russia have already intervened". [254]

Reuters reported that Russian mercenaries associated with the Wagner Group were in Venezuela to defend Maduro's government. [255] Professor Robert Ellis of the United States Army War College described 400 Wagner Group mercenaries provided by Russia as the "palace guard of Nicolás Maduro". [254] Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the deployment of Russian mercenaries, calling it "fake news". [256] [257] A Cuban military presence of at least 15,000 personnel was in Venezuela in early 2018, [258] while estimates ranging from hundreds to thousands of Cuban security forces were reported in 2019. [254] Colombian guerrillas from National Liberation Army (ELN) have also vowed to defend Maduro, with ELN leaders in Cuba stating that they are drafting plans to provide military assistance to Maduro. [259] The Redes Foundation denounced in the Colombian Public Ministry that armed groups made up of National Liberation Army members and FARC dissidents, supported by the Bolivarian National Police and FAES officials, murdered two Venezuelans, Eduardo José Marrero and Luigi Ángel Guerrero, during a protest in the frontier city of San Cristóbal, on Táchira state. Other protesters were injured during the shooting. [260]

Maduro announced that state funds would be used to purchase new military equipment, saying "we are going to make enough investment so that Venezuela has all the anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems ... even the most modern in the world, Venezuela will have them because Venezuela wants peace". [261]

According to Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank, "a military action of the United States against Venezuela would be contrary to the movements of the Trump administration to retire troops from Syria or Afghanistan." [262] John Bolton has declared that "all options are on the table", but has also said that "our objective is a peaceful transfer of power". [263]

Overseas assets

In mid-December, a Venezuelan delegation went to London to arrange for the Bank of England to return the $1.2 billion in gold bullion that Venezuela stores at the bank. Bloomberg reported that unnamed sources said the Bank of England declined the transfer due to a request from US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, who wanted to "cut off the regime from its overseas assets". [264] In an interview with the BBC, Maduro asked Britain to return the gold reserves deposited in London instead of sending humanitarian aid. He claimed that the gold was "legally Venezuela's, it belongs to the Central Bank of Venezuela" and could be used to solve the country's problems. Guaidó asked the British government to ensure that the Bank of England does not provide the gold to the Maduro government. Maduro also said that US sanctions have frozen $10 billion in Venezuelan overseas accounts. The US has said it will give Guaidó control of those assets once Maduro has been removed from power. [265]

The Portuguese bank Novo Banco denied Maduro's attempt to transfer 1.054 billion euros to Uruguay. [266]

Threats and intimidation

Guaidó presented his socioeconomic project Plan País on 31 January at the Central University of Venezuela. [267] The plan encompasses providing government subsidies to the most vulnerable populations in Venezuela, restoring experienced personnel—removed by former President Hugo Chávez—to PDVSA, and improving foreign investment. [267] As the presentation concluded, Guaidó rushed back to his home after being informed that security forces were outside his residence while his wife and child were there. [268] [269] [270] Neighbors stated that individuals dressed in black were seen near his home and gathered outside of Guaidó's home to support him. [270] [271] The Bolivarian National Police denied that authorities were present in the area. [270]

According to Colombia's Caracol Televisión, Maduro said Guaidó was a clown with a "virtual mandate" who could be imprisoned. [272] During a speech given during the start of the judicial year in the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, Maduro "joked" saying "I was thinking about sending my assistant to the self-proclaimed to end his life."; seconds later Maduro pointed out that "it was a joke" and that "they don't know what humor is." [273] Diosdado Cabello—described by Urgente 24 News as the "president of the illegitimate 2017 Constituent National Assembly" and number two in command [of the country] [274] —made another threat against Guaidó on 5 February in a public, videotaped discussion before the Constituent Assembly. [274] [275] Cabello said that Guaidó had "never heard the whistle of a nearby bullet, you don't know what it feels like when a bullet hits three centimeters from you". [274] [275] [276] Cabello also was reported to have asked Guaidó how far he was willing to go, because they were willing, saying that "We will not care about anything." [275] Guaidó's response was, "Caracas is the most violent capital in the world ... we have had political assassinations ... they have killed more than 40 children. Venezuelans have had to listen already to too many whistling bullets produced by a regime that does not care about the lives, the welfare of Venezuelans ... who need medicine and food ... you will not stop us with veiled threats." [277]

On 10 February, Guaidó said that his wife's grandmother was threatened by colectivos. [278]

Recognition

Nations recognizing presidential power
Venezuela
Neutral
No statement
Recognize Guaido
Support National Assembly
Recognize Maduro Venezuela president recognition map 2019.svg
Nations recognizing presidential power
  Venezuela
  Neutral
  No statement
  Recognize Guaidó
  Support National Assembly
  Recognize Maduro

Guaidó interim presidency

Foreign states

Non-UN states

Intergovernmental organizations

International organizations

Domestic organizations

Support of National Assembly

Foreign states

Non-UN states

Intergovernmental organizations

Maduro presidency

Foreign states

Non-UN states

Intergovernmental organizations

International organizations

Domestic organizations

Armed groups

Vocal neutrality

Several nations called specifically for non-intervention and, without supporting either side, asked for diplomatic discussions to be held to move forward.

Foreign states

Intergovernmental organizations

Reactions

Washington, D.C. public assembly

On 15 January, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Maduro "an illegitimate dictator", [408] with United States National Security Adviser John R. Bolton and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also using the same term. [409] [410]

International demonstrations occurred on both sides, with massive [411] gatherings in more than 70 cities worldwide [412] supporting Guaidó, [413] [414] [415] [416] and others supporting Maduro. [417] [418] [419]

An open letter by over 70 scholars, including Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, demanded the United States "cease interfering in Venezuela’s internal politics, especially for the purpose of overthrowing the country’s government". [420] [421]

Governments

International

Mexico and Uruguay announced an international conference for countries with a neutral position in Montevideo on 7 February. [422] Uruguay has since recognized Maduro as president, with foreign minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa comparing the worsening situation to the United States' rationale for the Iraq War. [372]

Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said that he would do all he could to "re-establish order, democracy and freedom" in Venezuela. [423] The Bolsonaro administration declared on 12 January 2019 that it recognizes Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela. [424]

Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China: China was originally forthcoming with support to Maduro with Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying stating that China "supports efforts made by the Venezuelan government to protect the country’s sovereignty, independence, and stability" and "opposes foreign forces from interfering into Venezuela affairs". [425] [426] It has recently taken a more neutral position for fear of alienating potential relationships in major South America countries which support of Guaidó, as well as due to frustration with Venezuela's inability to repay debt, China having lended Venezuela $67B USD. Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, stated that China's trade deals would not be affected “no matter how circumstances change," and further stated that China has been in talks with "all sides". [427] [428] There also has been evidence of discontent in China's public over the amounts of money that have been given to Venezuela, which some state would be better used in China. [429] According to the Wall Street Journal , China has been holding meetings with diplomats from the government of Guaidó to discuss Chinese investments in Venezuela; [430] a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman denied these claims, stating that it is "false information". [431]

Flag of Iran.svg  Iran: Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman stated that Iran "supports Venezuela's [Maduro] government and nation against any kind of foreign interference in its internal affairs". [432]

Flag of Russia.svg  Russia: Russia has been a vocal supporter of Nicolas Maduro, as well as being a military and economic ally. [433] Russia has made shows of force, such as flying two Tu-160 nuclear capable bombers to Venezuela. [433] In addition to direct support Russia also acts vocal supporter of Maduro in the UN, and has been one of the country's principal arms dealers. [434] Domestic reactions in Russia to the situation have been mixed with some publications praising Russia's support of Maduro and its willingness to confront the US, and others criticizing economic aid to Venezuela which they deem an economic black hole. [433] The Russian national oil company Rosneft has invested heavily in numerous joint ventures with Venezuela's state-run oil company, PDVSA. Rosneft has made direct investments in six Venezuelan oil fields totaling around $2.5B USD. [435] Rosneft has also acted as a major lender, and oil marketer for Venezuela aiding it in selling 225,000 barrels per day in crude supplies overseas. It has made large loans to the company with $2.7B USD outstanding; to offset risk PDVSA has pledged a 49.9% stake of subsidiary Citgo as collateral for loans outstanding. [436]

Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan phoned Maduro to offer support. [437] According to Haaretz, "Erdogan pledged to invest in Venezuelan's failing economy during the trip, with Maduro claiming that Turkish businesses would pump some 4.5 billion euros into the country." [438] [439]

Elliott Abrams, a former foreign policy official under the Reagan and Bush administrations, was appointed the United States' Special Envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Elliott Abrams, a former foreign policy official under the Reagan and Bush administrations, was appointed the United States' Special Envoy to Venezuela

Flag of the United States.svg  United States (US): On 15 January, US President Donald Trump was reported to be deliberating whether to officially recognize Guaidó, [440] which he did on 23 January. [441] [442] [443] US Vice President Mike Pence released a video on 23 January in support of Guaidó and the people of Venezuela. [110] [444] The US was the first nation to recognize Guaidó after he swore an oath on the 23rd, with Trump and Pence sending their support and solidarity as well as the official recognition; other countries followed suit. [445] In response Maduro ordered the expulsion of US diplomats, giving them 72 hours to leave Venezuela. The US said it would not close its embassy, stating their diplomatic relationship was with Guaidó's government, and holding Maduro responsible for the safety of its staff. [445] [446] [447] On 26 January 2019, only hours before the deadline, the Maduro government backtracked on its expulsion order, giving US diplomats another 30 days. [448] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed Elliott Abrams as US Special Envoy to Venezuela. [449] On 28 January, the US imposed sanctions on PDVSA. The US accounted for 41% of purchases from the company, which is the biggest input to Venezuela's economy. [450]

Flag of the Vatican City.svg   Vatican City: Corriere della Sera cited [451] a leaked copy [452] [453] of a private letter reportedly sent by Pope Francis to Maduro on 7 February 2019 [454] in reply to a letter Maduro wrote asking the pope to mediate. [455] Pope Francis' response—addressed to "His Excellency Mr Nicolás Maduro Moros" [451] —said that what had been agreed in earlier negotiations had not been followed. [454] Those conditions, still applicable, were: open a channel for humanitarian aid, hold free elections, free political prisoners, and re-establish the constitutionally-elected National Assembly. [456] According to Andrea Gagliarducci, writing for the Catholic News Agency , in not addressing Maduro as president, the Pope was agreeing with the stance taken by the Venezuelan bishops, [456] who hold that Maduro's election was illegitimate. [340]

Intergovernmental organizations

Guaido communication to embassies in Venezuela: I am responsible for telling them that we are a sovereign nation and will continue to maintain diplomatic relations with all the countries of the world Comunicado dirigido a todas las Embajadas presentes en Venezuela 2019-01-23.jpg
Guaidó communication to embassies in Venezuela: I am responsible for telling them that we are a sovereign nation and will continue to maintain diplomatic relations with all the countries of the world

Flag of Europe.svg  European Union (EU): More than half of its member states, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Spain, said they support Guaidó; [457] [458] earlier, the EU issued a declaration saying it "fully supports the National Assembly as the democratically elected institution whose powers need to be restored and respected". [459] On 4 February, 19 countries of the European Union made a joint declaration supporting and recognizing Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela, asking that he "summons free, just and democratic presidential elections". [460] Italy's stance prevented this from becoming an official EU position. [354]

Lima Group: On 11 and 12 January, several nations of the Lima Group released statements independent from the international body, including their nations' agreement to not recognize Maduro. [461] [462] [463] The Maduro government claimed that these countries had "rectified" themselves to support him as president. [461] [464] They had not; the non-intervention statements were seen as a concession to prevent rash action by Maduro after he broadly threatened the group. [461] [463] Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, gave a different statement to the vice presidential office, saying that Venezuela had received diplomatic notices from some Lima Group countries about the original dispute. [461] Colombia's statement reiterated the group's resolution and pledged to support "the restoration of democracy and constitutional order in Venezuela", as well as saying that they did not have a position on the territorial dispute. [462] Arreaza contradicted the statement from his vice president's office that the Lima Group recognized Maduro's government, and doubled Maduro's 48-hour demand period for non-intervention for the remaining countries after it expired. He also advocated peaceful diplomatic discussion with neighboring countries. [465] The group—except for Mexico, which called for non-intervention in Venezuelan internal affairs [466] —continued to back the Guaidó government, with the Foreign Minister of Chile pledging "unlimited support". [467]

Flag of the Organization of American States.svg  Organization of American States (OAS): The OAS approved a resolution on 10 January 2019 "to not recognize the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro's new term". [468] Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, recognized Guaidó on 23 January. [469] In an extraordinary OAS session called for 24 January 16 countries including the US recognized Guaidó as president, but they did not achieve the majority needed for a resolution. [470] Almagro held countries who remained neutral on the presidential crisis responsible for the massacre, suffering, and human rights violations in Venezuela. [471]

Flag of the United Nations.svg  United Nations: A special meeting of the Security Council was held on 26 January to discuss Venezuela; no consensus was reached. Secretary General António Guterres called for dialogue to ease tensions. [472] Delegates from Maduro's government continued to represent Venezuela at the United Nations. On 14 February 2019, a group of UN delegates, including delegates of China, Russia and Venezuela itself, declared they would fight what they called the "illicit, American-led effort" to change the government of Venezuela. They accused the US of "using sanctions and emergency aid as political weapons against Venezuelans". [473]

National organizations

The organizations supporting the National Assembly include the Venezuela Creditors Committee, a fund bank that can give loans to the ailing nation and which could not finalize an agreement with Maduro in 2017, [474] and all of the other businesses represented by the OFAC union. These include Electricidad de Caracas, providing electrical power to the capital and surrounding areas. [339] PDVSA, the nation's largest oil and gas company, was initially reported as supporting Guaidó, but later pledged loyalty to Maduro. [339] [382]

The Catholic Church in Venezuela, organized by the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela, released a statement by Monsignor Ovidio Pérez Morales on 15 January 2019 saying "The Church in Venezuela, united to its Bishops in communion with the Pope, declare the socialist-communist regime illegitimate and stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan people to rescue democracy, freedom, and justice. Trusting in God, they support the National Assembly". [340] Cardinal Porras says: “This regime always calls for dialogue when it’s up to its neck in water but when the water level falls it forgets about it." [453]

Social media

Despite internet blocks in Venezuela, by midday local time, the Twitter hashtag "#23Ene"—shorthand for "23 de Enero", Spanish for 23 January—was trending worldwide. [475] Later in the day, five of the top ten trends were protest-related: "Venezuela", "Juan Guaidó", "#23Ene", "#GritemosConBrio", and "#Guaido". [476] With protests continuing to the next day, "#24Ene" also trended. [477]

It was reported in the late evening that Instagram had removed the "Verified" label from Maduro's account, instead placing one on Guaidó's account; this was denied by Instagram. [478] Guaidó's description had also been updated to include "President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela". [479] The following day, Facebook un-verified Maduro. [480]

In January 2019, the Associated Press said that Maduro's administration [481] and Venezuela's state-run media [482] sought to discredit Guaidó with video footage [481] "to paint [him] as a liar and a fraud". [482] Venezuela's Communications Minister, Jorge Rodríguez, claimed to have proof of a meeting between Guaidó and United Socialist Party of Venezuela members, Diosdado Cabello and Freddy Bernal, [483] [484] in which Guaidó allegedly said he was under pressure from the United States. [481] According to Guaidó, the meeting never happened. [482] Rodríguez' proof came as collated short video clips. One clip shows Cabello walking through a hotel lobby, then cuts to show a man in a hooded sweatshirt (alleged to be Guaidó) entering and crossing the hall in the same direction as Cabello. [482] The hooded man is heavily obscured and blurry, [485] and it is impossible to identify the person. [481] [485]

Within minutes [486] [487] of Venezuela's state-run media posting the video, the hashtag #GuaidoChallenge went viral, trending worldwide. [482] The hashtag made fun of the video posted by Rodríguez as supposed proof of this meeting. [485] On 27 January, Guaidó held a public assembly and again challenged the Maduro administration to produce evidence of the alleged meeting. [488] According to a translation on Caracas Chronicles, he said, "Show whatever you want, fabrications, with hoodie, without hoodie, audios. You confuse nobody here, the people see clearly." [488]

As a protest about what they called foreign intervention, pro-Maduro social-media users used the hashtag '#HandsOffVenezuela' to share videos, pictures, and comments. [489] [490]

China, a supporter of Maduro, has censored information about the crisis according to Radio Free Asia. [491] Reports from China state that Chinese citizens who criticize Maduro on social media are punished or fined, with economist He Jiangbing saying that the Chinese government is "trying to prevent another color revolution ... because Venezuela and China are very similar". [491]

Public opinion

Reuters has described previous polls in Venezuela as being "notoriously controversial and divergent". [492] Stratfor says Maduro lost support of working-class Venezuelans as government handouts subsided; [493] the opposition to Maduro has proposed plans to end the economic crisis, resulting in increased support for them. [493]

President Iván Duque Márquez of Venezuela's neighboring Colombia was among the early supporters of Guaidó; a 7–11 February Colombian survey of 1,008 individuals in more than 20 cities, with a margin of error of 3%, found that his popularity had surged 15 points, partly because of his position on Venezuela, and that 70% of Colombians had a favorable view of Guaidó, and 93% had a negative impression of Maduro. [494]

Surveys between 30 January and 1 February by Meganálisis recorded that 84.6% of respondents recognized Guaidó as interim president, 11.2% were undecided and 4.1% believe that Maduro was president. The study of 1,030 Venezuelans was conducted in 16 states and 32 cities. [495] [225]

A telephone survey of 999 Venezuelans by Hercon between 25 and 30 January showed that 81.9% of respondents recognized Guaidó as president, 13.4% said Maduro was president and 4.6% were undecided. [496] A Meganálisis survey of 870 Venezuelans between 24 and 25 January reported that 83.7% of respondents recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president, 11.4% could not decide who was president and 4.8% recognized Maduro as president. [497]

A pre-23 January 2019 poll by Hinterlaces, a pollster headed by Constituent National Assembly member Oscar Schemel  [ es ] and described as pro-Maduro, [492] [498] [499] reported that 86% of Venezuelans would oppose a military intervention, that 81% oppose US sanctions, and that 84% support dialogue to end the crisis. [500]

Surveys of 900 people between 19 and 20 January by Meganálisis reported that 81.4% hoped that Guaidó would be sworn in on 23 January while 84.2% supported a transitional government to replace Maduro's government. [501] A telephone survey of 1,000 registered voters by Venezuelan pollster Hercon, conducted from 15 to 19 January 2019, reported 79.9% of respondents agreeing with Maduro leaving the presidency. Regarding the National Assembly, 68.8% of respondents rated their work as being positive while 15.6% rated their actions as negative. When asked if they agreed with the National Assembly swearing in Guaidó as interim president, 68.6% agreed and 19.4% disagreed. [502]

See also

Notes

  1. Sources reporting on claims of the National Assembly being the "only democratically elected" or "only legitimate" political body in Venezuela include: Financial Times , [30] the BBC, [31] Economic Times , [32] CTV, [33] Business Times , [34] Reuters agency, [35] CBC, [36] etc.
  2. On unchecked power of the executive: Human Rights Watch 2018 report, [37] Human Rights Watch 2017 report, [38] Amnesty International, [39] and Amnesty International on opposition. [40]
  3. Luisa Ortega Díaz, Chief Prosecutor of Venezuela from 2007 to 2017, revealed that Maduro profited from the food crisis. CLAP made contracts with Group Grand Limited, a Mexican entity owned by Maduro through frontmen. Group Grand Limited would sell foodstuffs to CLAP and receive government funds. [160] [161] [162] On 19 April 2018, after a multilateral meeting between over a dozen European and Latin American countries, US Treasury Department officials said they had investigated with Colombian officials corrupt import programs of the Maduro administration including CLAP. They explained that Venezuelan officials pocketed 70% of the proceeds allocated for importation programs destined to alleviate hunger in Venezuela. Treasury officials said they sought to seize the proceeds that were being funneled into the accounts of corrupt Venezuelan officials and hold them for a possible future government in Venezuela. [163] [164]
  4. The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recognized Guaidó, but the President of Bulgaria, has issued a statement condemning the foreign ministry's position, critisicing the EU's recognition of Guaidó and urging neturality [290] [291] [292] [293] [294]
  5. Excluding Mexico.
  6. El Salvador changed its mind several times. Initially supporting Maduro, an official statement released on 24 January said they recognized Guaidó; later that day another statement was released, reiterating their backing of Maduro. [362] [363]
  7. Palestine is not placed under non-UN states because it is a UN observer.
  8. While Uruguay still recognizes Maduro as President, on 13 February the Uruguayan government released a joint statement with the Argentine government (who recognizes Guaidó) calling for new elections. [373] [374] [375]

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