A political stand-off

Amid a grim economic crisis, the power struggle weakens Venezuela further What is happening in Venezuela? Venezuela has been going through a turmoil for the past couple of years amid an economic meltdown and growing Opposition protests. The crisis took a dangerous turn on January 23 when Juan Guaidó, president of the Opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim President of the oil-rich South American country, directly challenging the authority of President Nicolás Maduro, who began his second six-year term in January. Immediately after Mr. Guaidó’s announcement, the U.S., Canada, Brazil and some other South American nations recognised him as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. Mr. Maduro rejected the “coup” attempt and said he was the President of Venezuela. European powers gave Mr. Maduro an ultimatum to announce fresh elections, which he rejected. Later, a host of European countries also backed Mr. Guaidó. The U.S., meanwhile, imposed new sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA — all properties of the company subject to U.S. jurisdiction was blocked and American citizens were barred from trading with the company. The sanctions are expected to cost Mr. Maduro’s government $11 billion in lost export proceeds. Who is the legitimate leader? Mr. Guaidó says the Venezuelan Constitution allows the president of the National Assembly to take power as interim President in the absence of an elected President. The Opposition doesn’t recognise the 2018 presidential election which Mr. Maduro won. The main Opposition had boycotted the election. Mr. Guaidó and his supporters argue that since the election was a sham, Venezuela doesn’t have a legitimate leader, and in such a context as president of the National Assembly, he could take power. This is a contested claim. Article 233 of the Constitution, which Mr. Guaidó has invoked, lists the circumstances, such as the President’s death, dismissal or resignation, where the Parliament chief can assume power and call for fresh elections. The current crisis, triggered by economic woes, government repression and a disputed election, is different. Besides, most constitutional institutions in the country, including the armed forces, back Mr. Maduro. So do Russia and China. How bad is the economic crisis? Very bad. The country’s inflation is estimated reach 10 million per cent this year. Venezuela has also been facing severe food and medicines shortages for months. The nation’s GDP, which was growing at near 10% in 2006, at the height of Hugo Chavez’s “Bolivarian revolution”, contracted 14.3% in 2018. Almost 90% of the country’s population is living in poverty, while per capita income has been falling since 2014. Amid this crisis, about three million Venezuelans have fled the country, most since 2015. What’s in store? When Mr. Guaidó declared himself acting President, he may have hoped that he could win over at least sections of Venezuela’s armed forces. He’s unlikely to topple Mr. Maduro as long as the military is loyal to him. Mr. Maduro’s government also has some support among the public, especially the poor, the backbone of the Chavismo government. So the attempts to topple Mr. Maduro are not making headway. On the other side, Mr. Maduro continues to face major challenges. The Opposition has strong support both within and outside the country. And the economic crisis is far from easing. This means the turmoil that has gripped Venezuela is unlikely to ease unless the government and the Opposition find common ground on rebuilding the economy and sharing power.

Source  : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/a-political-stand-off/article26263466.ece

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