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Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

One Side on the Venezuelan Crisis

Too often we are quick to call for interventions in foreign countries, without first considering the implications that such actions could cause.

Mar 2, 2019

Simón Bolívar, the Liberator of the Americas, said in an 1830s letter that after 20 years at the helm, he was sure of only six certain results, the first of these being that “America is ungovernable.”. Nearly two centuries later, the America of Simón Bolívar truly seems as ungovernable as ever. The aptly named Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has fallen deeper into crisis after a series of events that began with the reelection of President Nicolás Maduro and end with a quasi-cold war situation; the United States and its allies back Juan Guaidó, while countries like Russia and China have remained in support of Maduro. But however black-and-white some American politicians make it out to be — by calling their band the “side of Freedom” — there is another, more rewarding angle that these countries can and should adopt: non-intervention.
The polarization that has been splitting the world on the Venezuelan issue has been rapid and has not allowed time for consideration. Yet, amid discussions and disagreements, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has distanced Mexico from the whole question of legitimacy by following the centennial constitutional principles of non-intervention and observation of the people’s right to self-determination. There are three reasons why countries should follow the Mexican example and just “stay out of it.”
Firstly, the claim that Guaidó has to the presidency is hazy at best and nonexistent at worst. The 35-year-old president of the National Assembly cunningly interpreted [the words of the Venezuelan constitution] ( by declaring Maduro as an illegitimate president, leaving the presidency “absent” and allowing for him to be sworn in as interim president. He is relying on some alchemical force that will allow the constitution to transmute into what he wants it to say, that he can denounce Maduro as a usurper and impede him from continuing as president.
But Maduro also has questionable claims to power. The general consensus, although not explicitly proven, is that the elections that resulted in his victory were largely a sham put on by his administration. Maduro banned opposition leaders from running against him and tacitly mentioned that those who did not vote would not be able to receive their ration of government subsidies which, coupled with the incredibly low voter turnout, led to questionable results.
Secondly, the whole question of legitimacy is a major topic of debate; one that does not have a clear answer and just adds to the complicated situation in the South American country. Who is really legitimate? If it’s the candidate that received the most votes then Maduro it is. However, what happens in the case of fraudulent elections? If it’s the candidate with most international recognition, then it is Guaidó – but why would another country have authority over Venezuela? If we consider the fact that Maduro was already the president, and was accepted, however begrudgingly, as such by the Venezuelan people, would this affect his legitimacy?
To call a person legitimate or illegitimate is to deal in the abstract, to evoke ideas of a so-called good against a so-called bad. Legitimacy, the argument which Guaidó’s entire platform stands on, is a useless measure for determining the rightful leader of a nation, one that is further muddied by the international support and opposition given to the two men. Lastly, it cannot be denied that there are other interests at play that extend beyond the matter of the legitimate president. The U.S. Americans jumped ecstatically at the opportunity of getting rid of ideological opposition, who by chance, providence, or good fortune happens to sit on the world’s biggest oil reserves. Conversely, the champions of socialist thought — past and present — such as Cuba, Russia and China, vehemently back their like-minded Latin American friend, with the added benefit of opposing the U.S. on yet another issue. Of course, the nations that neighbor Venezuela are most interested in bringing peace and stability to their region, but this banner is stained when it is taken up by the interventionist superpowers.
The Venezuelan crisis is a complex issue that would benefit from not having any foreign intervention which interferes with the true intentions of the Venezuelan people. Other countries should pay attention to Mexico’s Estrada Doctrine, which states that nations should not weigh in on whether a foreign government is legitimate or illegitimate. As explained by President López Obrador, “We don’t interfere in internal matters of other countries and we don’t want the governments of other countries to meddle in matters that correspond only to Mexicans.” While some will be quick to denounce neutrality as worse than choosing sides, when it comes to tough issues that affect human rights, self-determination and foreign intervention, I believe that an objective and impartial posture can result in a more fruitful outcome. Fuerza Venezuela.
Luis Rodriguez is a contributing writer. Email him at
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