Venezuela stands at a precipice in its history, where honestly anything could happen. For those who don’t know what’s going on in the South American state (which up until very recently, included me!), maybe some background might be useful.
Venezuela experienced a political revolution in the late-1990’s in backlash to decades of political and socio-economic chaos, that eventually saw the Socialist leader, Hugo Chavez sworn in as President in 1998, who sought to forge a new path for Venezuela in the mould of the 19th century Venezuelan freedom fighter and later President, Simón Bolivar.
But over two decades since the so-called ‘Bolivarian revolution’, Venezuela is in crisis. Economic stagnation, political repression, hunger and famine; all has led international human rights organisations such as the Latin American division of Human Rights Watch, to declare that Venezuela under President Nicholas Maduro has committed crimes against humanity.
The current incarnation of the crisis was sparked by the opposition leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declaring himself the rightful President only weeks after Maduro assumed office after last years fraught election.
Guaidó is more than qualified to be President, and many (including me) have hope that he could be the President to steer Venezuela’s trajectory into a progressive and democratic direction, but his path to the presidency is paved with problems.
Maduro is known already for locking up his political opponents, but any move against Guaidó would only inflame the current situation even more and act as a catalyst for foreign intervention, which would ultimately lead to war that Maduro would not win.
Guaidó has been declared rightful President by the UK, France, Canada Portugal, The European Parliament and importantly, Trump’s USA amongst others. Maduro’s position could soon become untenable, with pressure and protest mounting both domestically and internationally. It does appear that a significant majority of Venezuelans support Guaidó attempt to oust Maduro, and no wonder.
In the same article cited above, the Organisation of American States has submitted a dossier including allegations of 8000 extrajudicial killings, torture, rendition and other horrors.
Only in the last week, reports have surfaced detailing that at least 40 people have been killed by the security forces under Maduro’s orders, and over 850 detained for attending anti-government protestors. That includes 77 children, some as young as 12.
The sheer horror of the crisis is unimaginable, but for the Venezuelan people this is a live and deadly situation, plagued by endless, and senseless suffering at the hands of the government.
Now, like most geopolitical situations it is a difficult one to say the least. Do we have a right to meddle in the affairs of another, theoretically democratic state? Doesn’t history show us that foreign intervention only exacerbates the situation into something potentially even more dangerous.
As it stands I do not support some kind of foreign military coup where Maduro is ousted by US troops. We know what happens when that’s the chosen path, and it is not pretty. The idea that the maniac that is President Trump knows what’s best for Venezuela is laughable, and actually as some have pointed out, US military intervention would quite possibly play into the hands of Maduro who could use it to unite his country against foreign aggression.
Obviously, we will have to see what happens in the next couple of weeks. This is an ever-evolving situation, so it’s hard to predict what might happen next. But looking at it now, it’s clear that Maduro has no intention of voluntarily stepping aside so diplomacy will be difficult. But that’s not to say that it mustn’t continue.
If this crisis can be de-escalated as peacefully as possible, then that is what must happen but it doesn’t look so rosy. Surely, part of those in the international community’s argument should be that if Maduro honesty thinks his people will rally behind him, what’s to stop him calling an election and putting that decision to the people?
In reality, Maduro has already been accused of widespread electoral and constitutuonal meddling, voter suppression and rigging so an election could also give him a further opportunity to shore up his ‘support’ through gerrymandering and disinformation, much like other autocratic leaders around the globe (many of whom by the way, have raced to Maduro’s side).
As someone who believes wholeheartedly in both the power of conversation, diplomacy alongside widespread peaceful protest, I think Maduro’s position will come to such a point where he is forced out by domestic forces, whether that be some of his own political allies or by the opposition, and specifically Guaidó’s public support.
The international left cannot absolve itself of responsibility on this crisis either. We have an obligation to stand in solidarity with the people of Venezuela who have suffered so greatly, under a regime that would dare mask its abhorrent oppression behind a label of socialism, yet enact the approach of fascism. We must stand up for our internationalist principles, promote diplomacy and negotiation, with the distinct and unwavering commitment to reach a democratic answer to this malaise.
Maduro won’t give up without a fight, but the left must honour its history and stand up to oppression where it is found. The fight in Venezuela is essential to ensuring that it’s great people are unchained from this hell, and begin to enjoy freedom, democracy and life to its fullest once more.