By: William Keenan
In January 2019, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for his second six-year term as the leader of the nation. Just days later, amid protests and uneasiness, opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself the interim president of Venezuela, directly challenging the Maduro’s leadership and leading to mass protests and outcries of support for the 35-year-old Guaidó. Duel presidential proclamations have led to a political standoff that is slowly morphing into a humanitarian crisis and putting all Venezuelans at risk.
Under the Maduro regime, there has been mass inflation, severe shortages of basic goods, and significant political oppression. In fact, Maduro has had up to 900 ‘opposing’ political figures arrested and jailed in this year alone, even Guaidó’s Chief of Staff, all in an effort to suppress dissent and keep a stranglehold on power. These arrests, as well as the aforementioned socioeconomic issues, have led to many opposition forces coming together and protesting against Maduro’s regime. In addition to this opposition at home, Maduro is facing problems abroad. Guaidó has been recognized as the country’s legitimate president by the United States and many of Venezuela’s neighbors, and Maduro has repeatedly been asked to step down by many international leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump.
In response to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and Maduro’s refusal to abdicate, the United States has moved to destabilize the Maduro regime. The U.S. Treasury has sanctioned the Venezuelan Central Bank and its Director to choke the government’s assets, attempted to expel Venezuela’s Representative to the United Nations to de-legitimize the current leadership and officials, and in a last ditch effort to help the citizens of Venezuela, repeatedly sent aid to its citizens which was, at first, destroyed by Maduro. However, in the face of significant international pressures, Maduro finally allowed the Red Cross to give aid to the tune of 24 tons of medical equipment in early April. This equipment will help up to 650,000 Venezuelans and hospitals around the country.
It seems there are no good options left for Maduro. If he stays in power, he risks coup attempts and a loss of diplomatic ties abroad. If he attempts to assassinate Guaidó or other opposition leaders, it is possible the United States could either invade the Venezuela or back a coup attempt. A bold move by Maduro would also leave him stranded, with no countries willing to offer him asylum or an escape. Guaidó, in contrast, has a wide base of support both at home and abroad in Europe, South America, and the United States. It appears as though the best option for Maduro might be to step down as leader of Venezuela and let the country heal. Staying in power will only lead to a larger crisis, less aid, and tarnished relations with the entire world — leading to more hyper-inflation, worsened food shortages, and a declining number of countries willing to assist. Maduro, however, usually does not do what he is told, so only time will tell who the president of Venezuela will be.