By Lowri Pitcher
With an estimated 1.7m percent annual hyperinflation, three million displaced nationals and a reported 87% of the 32 million population living below the poverty line; it is clear to see that the socialist dystopia promoted by Hugo Chavez and succeeded by Nicolás Maduro has not transpired.
When Nicolás Maduro won a second term in government in May 2018, there were widespread protests and claims that he rigged the election and therefore should no longer govern. Many believe that Juan Guaidó, President of the National Assembly, should step into Maduro’s footprints. Guaidó himself has said that he looks forward to having “free and fair elections as soon as possible in order to restore democracy to Venezuela.” However, whilst the long process to oust Maduro has gotten underway, millions of Venezuelans are desperately suffering under economic collapse and civil unrest.
On 26 January, the UK called for Maduro to hold legitimate elections within 8 days and when he failed to do so, Theresa May’s spokesman said that “We [UK] fully support the democratically elected National Assembly with Juan Guaidó as its president.” The UK, US, Spain, France, Germany and the Lima Group (consisting of 14 countries such as Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Peru) and many other countries all support Guaidó as President. President Trump has announced sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA which will deprive Maduro of much needed funds, in response, Maduro initially announced that he was breaking all diplomatic ties with the US although he later repented when it became clear the US had no intention to comply.
To the contrary, Russia and China back Maduro, with Russia most explicitly voicing its discontent at the prospect of losing him as a valued ally in the region. In response to Jeremy Hunt, the UK’s Foreign Secretary’s tweet of support for Guaidó, the account for the Russian Embassy in the UK tweeted: “Disappointed with the position of the UK which has chosen to violate international law.” Russia has previously disapproved of western intervention in foreign issues, though it is believed that Putin has ordered the deployment of 400 troops from a private military to protect Russian assets in Venezuela.
Globalisation has allowed countries to invest and trade with one another which has lead to codependent economies, therefore when a country suffers, others will want to resolve the problem quickly to protect their own interests. Russia and China are owed more than $120 billion by Venezuela, which is often paid for in oil, and both countries have forged close ties with President Maduro, so naturally they want to secure their diplomatic and economic ties.
The future of both Venezuela’s government and civilian population is unclear. Maduro has ignored international calls for his resignation, he has threatened to imprison Guaidó and has rejected humanitarian aid convoys. However, those hoping for a return to peace in Venezuela should not lose hope. It sits upon the largest proven oil reserves in the world, it has an educated and a relatively young workforce which could be economically active given the opportunity. Growing support from the international community could eventually topple Maduro and the dictatorial government of this fragile state leading to fair and free elections in the not-so distant future.