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Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

The Slippery Slope of the Venezuelan Crisis

Legitimacy has always been subject to interpretation. The deliberate starving of a nation is not.

May 12, 2019

Legitimacy has always been subject to interpretation. The deliberate starving of a nation is not.
Venezuela is in a deep humanitarian, economic and political crisis. Defending Nicolás Maduro’s legitimacy is questionable when he is the intellectual actor behind the deliberate starving of a nation. Neutrality, as valid and impartial as it seems, is a conscious choice of leaving the problem up to the Venezuelan people to solve. Solidarity, humanitarian aid and bilateral agreements must be made to guarantee that a neutral point of view does not entail indifference. Maduro has to leave, and that is the common ground that all sides should come to stand on.
Venezuela has two presidents: one elected — Nicolás Maduro — and one constitutionally self-proclaimed — Juan Guaido. As contradictory as this may seem, this dichotomy is a reflection of the broken political and economic system of the world’s largest oil reserve holder. As expected, world superpowers could not wait to take a stake in the conflict. Russia, fearing a coup d’etát in its most powerful South American ally, moved military troops to Venezuela last month. The U.S. did not take long to take a clear anti-Maduro and pro-Guaido agenda. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week that he “didn’t rule out ‘ultimately’ using military action on top of diplomatic, political and other pressure points.” China, the latest financer of 20 billion USD to Venezuela, is caught between the struggle of power between both leaders and hasn’t taken any official position as the repayment of this debt depends on the president. As a large oil importer, the Asian superpower is likely to support the winner before taking a bet. The motivation for the world superpowers to intervene using their military influence is clear; Venezuela is a hidden oil gem that is much closer than some Middle Eastern allies. Having the holder of the largest oil reserves as a strategic partner can be a competitive advantage in the new cold war that we live in.
How did such a rich nation arrive at a humanitarian crisis? Some left-wing politicians might say the U.S. sank Venezuela into this crisis through economic sanctions, while right-wing politicians will blame the populist policies of Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez. Some economists blame the decrease of the price of oil, which accounts for 95 percent of Venezuela’s exports and 25 percent of their GDP.
There is no one else to blame than the current president Nicolás Maduro. Since Maduro took charge of the presidency after Chavez’s death, inflation has skyrocketed, achieving a ridiculous level of 1,300,000 percent last year. Since Maduro, Venezuela’s GDP started stagnating to an alarming average YoY of -9 percent. Since Maduro was elected, the oil production in Venezuela fell from 2.5 million barrels a day to almost one million barrels a day. The last time Venezuela saw such a decrease in its national GDP levels and oil production was when Chavez expropriated several private conglomerates, including PDVSA, the national oil company. Since Maduro assumed the presidency, Venezuela has become an excessively corrupt regime where public officials are liable of drug trafficking crimes. Only Maduro is responsible for the economic failure, which led 3 million Venezuelan migrants to walk the streets of South American highways, escaping the most dangerous city in the world.
Juan Guaido’s legitimacy is still a subject of debate. Everything started in December 2015, when a coalition of opposition parties won a majority in the National Assembly, putting Maduro’s policies at risk. Maduro, abusing his executive power, quickly eliminated several opposition justices from the Supreme Court and appointed replacement justices that followed his political view. Just four months later in March 2017, the Supreme Court limited the powers of the opposition-led National Assembly. Since this was unconstitutional, the court quickly removed the ruling, yet approved Maduro’s call for a new form of the National Assembly, the National Constituent Assembly. Maduro’s political party won the majority of this assembly. Several protests happened the day after the election, but they were quickly silenced by the military — which is controlled by Maduro — and the colectivos-paramilitary urban guerillas legalized by the narco leader. When Maduro was re-elected as president in 2018, the previous National Assembly decided to make Juan Guaido, who was its president, as interim legitimate president of Venezuela. Nonetheless, while the debate of legitimacy is interesting, it is useless as Venezuela faces one of the deepest humanitarian crises in the world. Pharmacies in Venezuela are out of medicine; 85 percent of the their stock of medicine is unavailable or difficult to obtain. Hyperinflation has made the price of basic needs such as toilet paper, hygiene products, water and many others skyrocket. Many Venezuelans can only afford food subject to price controls, which are now in short supply. The Maduro narco-state has failed its people, and there is not any other cause than his irresponsible government spending, lack of monetary policy and populist medieval solutions.
Until now, one can still argue that there is no clear solution and that it is difficult to take sides. Nonetheless, on Feb. 24 2019, Maduro’s military deliberately blocked more than 600 tons of humanitarian aid coming from the border with Colombia. The actions of the Venezuelan military left 286 people injured and more than 14 burned trucks. Maduro is deliberately starving his people to death while government officials continue to enjoy a corrupt lifestyle.
What was Maduro’s excuse to do this? The humanitarian aid allegedly contained military equipment for a coup d’etát. After many attempts of a coup and even a failed drone attack, the Operación Libertad started six days ago, led by Juan Guaido and Leopoldo Lopez, leader of the opposition party who was illegally incarcerated in 2014. This attempted coup was supported by the U.S. and most Western countries, while Russia and its allies opposed it.
Maduro’s regime is a legitimized narco-paramilitary failed state that is starving its people to death for the sake of his pride. There is a clear common threat that all sides should take into account: Nicolás Maduro. Neutrality is a choice, choosing not to take sides is taking a clear side. We cannot defend the legitimacy of this government anymore. Even if it was legitimate, the deliberate starving of a nation and the amount of lies that Maduro’s regime has told to his people must come to an end. My position stands with the people of Venezuela, hoping that they do whatever it takes to force Maduro out of power.
Fuerza Venezuela.
Sebastian Caro is a contributing writer. Email him at
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