Crisis in Venezuela?

Countries are recognising an alternate president

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Should the international community stay out of Venezuela?

By Joe Harker

A number of European countries have joined the US in recognising Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela. He declared himself interim leader of the country after president Nicolás Maduro

Most South American countries also back Guaidó over Maduro, though the Lima Group hopes the Venezuelan army will switch sides rather than have to rely on outside military intervention.

Maduro was elected for a second term in May 2018 and sworn in in January, leading to the collapse of his government. The election was mired in a corruption scandal as some opposition leaders did not contest due to boycotts or imprisonment.

Guaidó, elected as head of the National Assembly, said he was constitutionally permitted to assume temporary power, deeming Maduro's presidency to be illegitimate.

The Claim:

Writing in The Guardian, Temir Porras Ponceleon argues that other countries should keep away from Venezuela for risk of triggering a civil war.

Ponceleon is a former chief of staff to Maduro and argues that Venezuela needs democracy rather than sanctions and interference from foreign powers.

He argues that Maduro still has millions of supporters in the country and many of them are among the poorest citizens, avid supporters of the president and his predecessor Hugo Chavez due to their socialist policies.

He calls for new elections and dismisses the idea that the man he worked for stayed in power for six years because of corruption and the threat of force. Maduro has dismissed the idea of new elections.

Ultimately, Ponceleon argues that the other countries should just let Venezuela sort their own problems out, believing that whatever trouble they are facing would be made worse by foreign sanctions or intervention.

The Counter Claim:

Many countries have officially recognised Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela. Much of Europe and South America has joined the US in supporting the legitimacy of his power, by default refusing to see Maduro's election as legitimate, though Russia and China still back Maduro.

They are pushing for new elections in the country, though US president Donald Trump said military force is "an option". A majority of the Venezuelan army still supports Maduro.

The international community largely backs Guaidó over Maduro, though there is no consensus over the next course of action. While new elections are the most popular option, sanctions and military action have not been discounted.

The Facts:

In the past five years Venezuela's GDP has fallen by half, while annual inflation is considered to be between 1.3 million and 1.7 million per cent. The true figure is impossible to know since the government no longer publishes the data. Under current inflation currency worth $10,000 at the start of the year would only be worth 59 cents at the end.

Most offers of humanitarian aid have been rejected by Maduro's government, while the UN Refugee Agency says over 3 million people have fled the country.

Since 1999 Venezuela has been ruled by a socialist government. The country has the world's largest proven oil reserves and the government had been using oil money to underwrite socialist policies, though the oil boom ended shortly after Hugo Chavez died in 2013.

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