The past couple of days have been quite tumultuous around these lands. Usually, Venezuela doesn’t wake up from its Christmas slumber until the 15th of January—but man, we really went into overdrive this time around.
The week of the 15th had the usual chaos that we’re now accustomed to when the minimum wage is raised; most prices doubled—some even tripled. At the same time, the Government raised the Banking legal reserve from 50% to 60%, which severely reduced the amount of Bolívares available. The timing couldn’t had been worse, the foreign currency black market exchange rates took a heavy blow as a result, which impacted people’s budgets. This decision has been overruled but the damage is already done.
And then along came the 23rd of January. The events of that day started a new chapter in our ongoing struggles; what happened in that afternoon might have been the start of something new—or worse, a repeat of the same cycle we’ve gone through several times now.
Both the government and the opposition rallied their forces in yet another public display of strength on this significant date of our history. Juan Guaidó, the current President of the National Assembly, assumed the interim presidency of Venezuela in the opposition rally.
I must confess that while word was spread of this course of action I wasn’t convinced that he’d actually do it. The opposition’s large track of screw ups, political backstabbery, and wasted opportunities had made them lose the people’s trust. You can only put your faith in a group of people so many times before you simply get exhausted of their incompetence.
Thus, that is one of the primary reasons that a relatively low profile figure such as Juan Guaidó was placed at the head of congress and also at the spotlight of our latest political crisis.
The opposition’s entire gambit is based around Article 233 of our constitution, which reads:
Article 233: 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 certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.
When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.
When the President of the Republic becomes permanently unavailable to serve during the first four years of this constitutional term of office, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the Executive Vice-President shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.
In the cases describes above, the new President shall complete the current constitutional term of office. If the President becomes permanently unavailable to serve during the last two years of his constitutional term of office, the Executive Vice-President shall take over the Presidency of the Republic until such term is completed.
You might say “But hey, Maduro is there—and he sure looks healthy to me.” And you would be correct. Their entire premise is centered on the illegitimacy of the 2018 presidential election, as these were rigged in every possible aspect, down to the date, banning of candidates/parties, vote buying, among others reasons.
With that as a framework, the election is then not recognized by neither the opposition nor by many countries and international organizations, thus, there’s no president and the seat is vacant. Maduro’s 2013-2019 term ended a few days ago.
This is why Guaidó (and the opposition) take the above mentioned basis to enact Article 233 and assume an interim presidency of the republic. Naturally, this is fiercely contested by Maduro’s government under the claim that the opposition-led congress is in contempt and thus all of their actions are null and void.
Lines have been drawn and this crisis might be different than the ones that preceded it, it might actually lead to something. The United States, Canada, and many other countries have expressed their direct and open acknowledgement of Guaidó’s interim presidency. The European Union placed an eight day deadline for Maduro to call for free and fair™ elections, otherwise they will recognize Guaidó’s interim presidency.
Of course, the usual suspects: China, Russia, Turkey, Cuba, et al. have expressed their support to Maduro. China and Russia was to be expected and should not come as a surprise; after all, they do own our resources and China is strip mining whatever is left of this country. They rather keep things as is since they have us trapped with an unpayable debt right now.
Turkey is profiting off Venezuela, Erdogan and Maduro are buddies, so his support is to be expected. We’re Cuba’s paypig (as sad as that sounds), they’ve been leeching off us for some time now and their influence on our government is public knowledge.
Other countries, such as the Caribbean, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Suriname, are supporting Maduro because either Chavez funded their current governments or they’re getting oil through Petrocaribe’s plans, which has been offering them oil at preferential rates with little to none interest in exchange of their loyalty.
Right after the events of the 23rd, Maduro decided to break relations with the United States, giving their diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave the country. The US government refused to comply since they do not recognize Maduro. Now that the 72 hours are gone Maduro is suggesting opening a Special Interests office, placing a thirty days deadline in order to reach an agreement, we’ll see what happens.
This might be either a short or long term game of chess. Regardless of its duration, it’s going to be a high stakes one. Every false move can radically change things. The article that Guaidó is enacting in order to assume an interim presidency only grants him thirty (30) days, in which he is tasked to call for new elections.
We simply cannot hold elections with the way things are right now: The Electoral Center is corrupted and 100% loyal to Maduro, so is the Supreme Court, there’s also the all mighty Constituent Assembly that they installed in order to have absolute control of everything—including the constitution.
The Venezuelan Military high command has pledged their loyalty to Maduro. This should not come as a surprise since they’re the ones that became a privilege high caste amidst this ongoing disaster.
Maduro might try to simply stall the game and buy time using the “negotiations” pretext once more until the thirty days go by, in which case, they will say that the opposition no longer has a claim or whatever. Stalling is (along with Stalin), one of their favorite cards to play, one that has been quite effective for them in the past. It’s a status-quo inducing trap that I sincerely hope we don’t fall into once more.
Naturally, it wouldn’t be a traditional Venezuelan turmoil time without a few media closed: The Venezuelan government has closed a few radio stations and threatened some into self-censorship. The Chilean news channel “24 Horas” has been banned for airing in the country as well.
Skirmishes and protests have taken place all week—the most intense ones have taken place during the night. Thirty people have died so far and many more have been injured. Petare, one of the largest slums in the world, has been under siege all week. There is a tense calm in the air, a “calm before the storm” sort of feeling.
Of course, the government, as well as the pro-maduro foreign “intellectuals” and your typical lefty personalities are saying that this is a “US-led Right Wing coup”. This is no coup and I need to reiterate the fact that what is known as the opposition isn’t Right Wing at all.
Others cry, “muh oil, muh US Imperialism,” but these people are content being silent with the Chinese and Russian Imperialism that continue to subjugate us, the former most of all, since China is the one that’s actively strip mining our country as we speak.
So I have to ask them: Are you truly against “Imperialism” or you simply are projecting your hate of America onto this? Are we, Venezuelans, truly free right now? Everyone, from the East to the West, is set to defend their interests in Venezuela—whichever they may be.
Or, as a friend with a better eloquence than mine has succinctly explained:
Then comes the next question: Is the Opposition (namely, Guaidó) right wing? Nope.
Guaidó’s Political Party: Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), is just like the rest of the opposition, center-left at best; hell, Voluntad Popular part of the International Socialist. But of course, foreigners, from blue-checkmark journos to US Senators are being accomplices in furthering this skewed “Right Wing coup” narrative.
See for yourself:
This has always been a catastrophic 20 year old battle between Venezuelan left leaning politic groups, it’s just that some are more towards the left than others. So, with that in mind, we need to employ some pragmatism in order to trust the opposition once more (whether some like it or not).
It has come to this, gotta work with what we have, but one thing is for sure, they need to start doing more concrete actions if they want to regain and solidify the people’s trust and faith once more—they have to go all in and commit this time, this country can no longer endure more half measures.
Right wing political groups do exist in the country and their distrust of the opposition is more than justified, but they don’t have the media reach and mass than the current scrambled opposition does even though they’ve been actively taken steps towards achieving that goal.
Will Guaidó be able to do what Capriles and Lopez failed to do in 2013 and 2014 respectively? We’ll see. A change in government would surely be a great first step to start fixing this mess of a country and there is plenty of international support this time, but that step alone is merely an antipyretic to treat the country’s fever. The overall infection remains—and boy, we’re gonna need some heavy broad-spectrum antibiotics and a couple surgeries for this patient.
In the end, all I want is my country to have a sense of normalcy once more, that people have access to food, medicine, education, and all those other things that we’ve lost. I don’t want anyone else to go through what my mother went through, unable to get access to proper chemotherapy because of the stubbornness of a government who still refuses to acknowledge the out of control humanitarian crisis that we’re going though. I don’t want more breadlines, no more having to buy stuff from contraband dealers, no more water rations, blackouts, an actual working currency, etcetera.
So here we are, the citizens of a nation suffering the consequences of the once lauded XXI Century Socialism, at the center of a large scale conflict of interests. I’m pretty sure that my fellow countrymen also simply want solutions to their problems and to be able to live normally once more. We’re willing to play cards and team up with countries that we don’t fully agree with in order to get out of this nightmare because quite frankly, it has come to this.