Venezuelans must be allowed to determine their destiny

BY Yvad Billings

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

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The political crisis that currently obtains in Venezuela ought to be of serious concern to all well-thinking people, not only because of the bloodshed that could occur, but also because of the effects of further devastation to the country's economy and destabilisation within the region.

The current stand-off has come about as Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez, a Venezuelan engineer and politician serving as the president of the National Assembly, has declared himself interim president, despite the sitting of the duly elected President Nicolás Maduro Moros.

Over the years, Venezuela has had its fair share of political upheaval and turmoil but has managed to maintain a series of democratic governments since 1958.

Two attempted coups in 1992, and the impeachment of President Carlos Andrés Pérez for embezzlement of public funds in 1993 led to the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998 until his death in 2013. Subsequently, Nicolás Maduro was made president of Venezuela after winning the election then, as well as re-election last year May.

However, Maduro has had no honeymoon since assuming leadership as he inherited an economy spiralling into decline since 2010. Moreover, he has faced vigorous opposition from the Democratic Unity Roundtable and, at the same time, his socialist policies have not endeared him to a large section of the populace.

Furthermore, the Opposition has contested Maduro's latest election, charging fraud and a violation of the constitution despite the ruling of the Supreme Court that, under Venezuela's constitution, Nicolás Maduro is the legitimate president.

That said, Opposition leaders and international media pundits have considered the Government of Maduro to be a dictatorship. Now the country is said to be divided into the pro-Chavistas versus the anti-Chavistas (Opposition protesters).

The fact is, since the re-election of Maduro, the country has seen hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans taking to the streets protesting high levels of criminal violence, corruption, hyperinflation, and chronic scarcity of basic goods, which protesters have attributed to policies of the federal government under the leadership of Maduro. The daily demonstrations and riots have led to fatalities and the arrest of Opposition leaders and, on the face of it, has led to Guaido assuming the mantle of power.

So far, several countries have backed Guaido as the interim president. These include the United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, the Organization of American States, among a few others.

In the meantime, Russia has condemned foreign powers for backing the Venezuelan Opposition leader as interim president. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has stated that, “We consider the attempt to usurp sovereign authority in Venezuela to contradict and violate the basis and principles of international law. Maduro is the legitimate head of state.”

On the other hand, US President Donald Trump, when asked by reporters whether a military intervention was being considered in Venezuela, responded, “We're not considering anything, but all options on the table,” he said. “All options, always, all options are on the table.”

Meanwhile, Maduro has received strong support from the country's military thus far and has warned that, “Nobody wants [war]. But we will not surrender or betray our country if there is an armed conflict, be it localised, low-level, mid-level, high-intensity, generalised, in one region or a city.”

In the press, it is argued that the move by the self-appointed Guaido is one orchestrated by the United States to get rid of Maduro, thus allowing the US greater access to Venezuela's resources and, more importantly, to keep Russia from setting up a base in Venezuela or have a foothold in the region.

Ultimately, whatever the outcome, one hopes that good sense will prevail and there will be no blood-letting, and moreover that the people of Venezuela will be allowed to determine their destiny, rather than become pawns in the pursuit of some superpower political, and economic interest.

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