The country of Venezuela has fallen into a democratic crisis. On 23 January 2019, thousands of protestors took to the streets to protest against the presidency of both Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó. With two leaders, heading in no foreseeable direction, the country finds itself in a state of limbo. So how did Venezuela erupt into this political chaos?
President Maduro was recently inaugurated for his second term as president two weeks prior to the protests of 29 January. Maduro has become widely unpopular with the Venezuelan public since becoming president in April of 2013, following the death of Hugo Chavez. In his first term as president, Venezuela suffered both economic turmoil and the emigration of nearly 3 million people. As a result, the country has weakened with no signs of recovery.
After Maduro’s re-election in May of 2018, many offered criticism, calling it an unjust election lacking democratic process. The international community joined the people of Venezuela in criticising Maduro’s second term into office. During the presidential campaign, opposing candidates were barred from running, and those who were not jailed, fled in fear of being imprisoned. With only one viable candidate due to the threat of imprisonment, many classified Maduro’s re-election as illegitimate.
One Maduro’s key critics is the newly declared president of Venezuela: 35-year-old Juan Guaidó. Guaidó is the Head of the National Assembly, and was declared acting president of Venezuela. Guaidó publicised his thoughts on Maduro’s election as illegitimate, and was detained by the Venezuelan Intelligence Agency. Upon his release, Guaidó spoke publicly of his experience being detained, urging his supporters to protest on 23 January. This led Guaidó to invoke Article 233 and 333 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which allowed him to take over the presidency from his position as Head of the National Assembly.
Key actors in the international community have come out in support of Guaidó, with both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have publicly recognised Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela. With the United States offering their support of Guaidó, other countries followed suit. Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Paraguay and Costa Rica are now showing Guaidó support as well. In retaliation, Maduro gave US diplomats 72 hours to leave the country, cutting power to the US embassy, following President Trump’s statement.
The country is now in an even worse state than it was before – in disarray with no signs of unity on the horizon. There is no indication that Maduro will be stepping down, openly planing to continue as president. The political situation only appears to be getting worse, with very little hope of peace for the people of Venezuela any time soon.
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