Venezuela 2019

Written by  //  February 11, 2019  //  Americas, Government & Governance  //  No comments

As Maduro Digs In, His Aides Hunt for an Emergency Escape Route
By Esteban Duarte, Eric Martin and Ilya Arkhipov
(Bloomberg) The Venezuelan leader has held on for years in the face of protests, a collapsed economy and international sanctions, via a tight grip on the military and by cracking down on the opposition. But the stress has never been greater. The financial noose is tightening globally, many neighbors and western nations are calling on him to hold elections or step aside, and the opposition has galvanized under Juan Guaido into a more cohesive force.
The fate of Maduro, his family and top lieutenants is key to any transition of power in Venezuela, an OPEC member whose population is suffering chronic shortages of food, medicines and basic amenities. A summit of European and Latin American countries held in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo last week agreed to work toward a peaceful political process that leads to new presidential elections in Venezuela.

8 February
Venezuelans ‘ready to fight back’ against Maduro government as military blocks U.S. aid
‘The people will not hesitate to take to the streets and even take up arms if we have to. There is no doubt they will deploy the army, but they are on our side’
(The Telegraph) Sixty tonnes of food and medicine began arriving from the U.S. Thursday and was placed within viewing distance of Venezuela in a high-stakes game designed to put pressure on Nicolas Maduro, the president — and stoke unrest among the local population.
The aid was called in by Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and self-appointed interim president, who has been recognized by 40 countries so far, including Canada, in a challenge to Maduro.
Guaido’s gamble looks to be a lose-lose situation for Maduro.
If he lets the aid in, he tacitly acknowledges Guaido’s authority. If he doesn’t, he risks further inflaming unrest. But a successful blockade will prove the one thing Maduro is relying on at this point — that the military still remains loyal.

5 February
Graphics Truth: How Bad Is Venezuela’s Collapse?
(GZEROMedia) Low oil prices, economic mismanagement, and political uncertainty have plunged Venezuela into an economic tailspin virtually unknown among countries during peacetime. By the end of this year, Venezuela’s economy will have shrunk by 63 percent since the current political crisis erupted in 2016. Here’s how that drop compares with other notable economic collapses over the past century.

4 February
Lima Group embraces Venezuelan opposition leader Guaidó, calls on military to quit Maduro
Foreign ministers from the Lima Group countries — Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia, alongside representatives from the U.K, the EU and the U.S. — met in Ottawa today to further solidify support for Guaidó as protests over the legitimacy of Maduro’s government continue to fill the streets in Venezuela.
The countries of the Lima Group completed their meeting…proclaiming the South American nation’s opposition leader and its National Assembly as full members of the multi-nation group while ruling out military intervention to end the humanitarian crisis gripping the oil-rich nation.
The move elevates Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó to the status of a “fully fledged” member of the group, said Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. The move further sidelines the authoritarian government of Nicolas Maduro, which has been declared illegitimate by Canada and many of its allies.
The Lima group wrapped its meeting today with a 17-point declaration that included a call for the “national armed forces of Venezuela to demonstrate their loyalty to the interim president in his constitutional functions as their commander in chief.”
That call followed news on Friday that Venezuelan Air Force Gen. Francisco Yanez had switched his allegiance to Guaidó and had called on his fellow officers to do the same.
The Lima Group nations did not encourage any military action against the Maduro regime, however, saying that the countries making up the group “reiterate their support for a process of peaceful transition through political and diplomatic means without the use of force.”
Who Is Venezuela’s Legitimate Leader? A Messy Dispute, Explained
The United States and several countries in Latin America and Europe have recognized Mr. Guaidó as the rightful leader, and he has called on the military to withdraw its support for Mr. Maduro.
But would elevating Mr. Guaidó constitute a democratic transition or a coup?
The answers to these questions, though urgently important, are not at all straightforward. Here is some help in trying to think them through.

Canadian unions helped fund delegation that gave glowing review of Venezuela election widely seen as illegitimate
‘The labour groups who went down there seem to be acting reflexively out of a … left-right agenda rather than a right-wrong approach’
Marie-Danielle Smith
(National Post) Four Canadian unions helped fund a private delegation to observe the Venezuelan presidential election last year, even as Canada, the United States and President Nicolas Maduro’s opponents decried the results as illegitimate.
With many of Maduro’s opponents in jail or barred from running for office and the country’s legislative system already weakened under his rule, opposition leaders had urged international observers not to travel to Caracas to lend legitimacy to the May 2018 proceedings.
The group of six Canadian observers, among them representatives of Common Frontiers, Unifor, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), the United Church of Canada and, lauded Venezuela’s “strong and vibrant democracy,” however, in a report published by Common Frontiers after the May 2018 trip. United Steelworkers and a Toronto personal injury law firm, Carranza LLP, also provided “delegation support,” according to the report.

1 February
Doug Saunders: How Canada almost saved Venezuela – until Washington crashed the party
(Globe & Mail) Venezuela is one place where Canada has done the right thing.
When Venezuelans began to rise against their increasingly dictatorial president, Nicolas Maduro, Ottawa took the considerable risk of providing outspoken support to the democratic opposition.
In 2017, Canada played a key role in organizing the Lima Group – a bloc of 14 Latin American and Caribbean countries that has pressed for the restoration of democracy and the end of atrocities in Caracas – and in urging that group to isolate and sanction the Maduro regime.
When Mr. Maduro’s dictatorship provoked a grotesque humanitarian crisis, with Venezuelans starving and millions of refugees flooding neighbouring countries, Canada was a leader in providing material aid and behind-the-scenes backing to the elected opposition. And on Jan. 23, when Venezuela’s fairly elected legislature announced that under the terms of their constitution, their representative, Juan Guaidó, had become the country’s legitimate leader, the federal government led the way in recognizing him.
The abrupt entry of Donald Trump and his administration[‘s] … ham-fisted embrace of Mr. Guaidó and his movement has made Venezuela’s hopeful, progressive moment – and the growing circle of democratic countries that helped bring that moment about – look to many observers like something else entirely.
Mr. Guaidó, 35, is a social democrat, with a lifelong history of community work on the democratic left. He is a member of Socialist International, whose key members include Britain’s Labour Party, the Democratic Socialists of America – the organization behind Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – and included Canada’s New Democrats until 2018, when the NDP decided to dissociate themselves from the word “socialist.” His political biography is a story of community organizing and progressive politics from his early student activism through to his transformative role – after things turned dark in 2017 – in organizing a nationwide network of open-air town-hall meetings to bring the voices of ordinary Venezuelans into the democratic process.
As Ben Rowswell, who was Canada’s ambassador to Venezuela until 2017, wrote in this paper on Monday, Mr. Trump’s gunboat diplomacy is offensive to Canadians and anyone who understands that “foreign military intervention is a violation of popular sovereignty, not a means to uphold it.”
Worse, some of the more unsavoury figures in Mr. Trump’s circle, such as his national-security adviser John Bolton, have suggested openly that the end of Mr. Maduro might be profitable for the U.S. oil industry. Mr. Maduro could not have devised a better strategy to ensure his hold on power: Now he can claim to be the last bulwark against the Yankee invasion.

28-31 January
The battle for Venezuela’s future
The world’s democracies are right to seek change in Latin America’s worst-governed country
(The Economist, 2 Feb edition) This week we assess the power struggle in Venezuela between Juan Guaidó, who recently proclaimed himself interim president, and the man he would replace, Nicolás Maduro. Many, especially on the left, argue that outsiders should leave Venezuelans to sort out their differences. But the world’s democracies are right to seek change. Venezuelans have been made wretched by six years under Mr Maduro and the region is struggling with the exodus of over 3m of its people fleeing hunger, repression and the socialist dystopia created by the late Hugo Chávez. As countries pile in for Mr Maduro or against him, they are battling over an important idea which has lately fallen from favour: that when a leader pillages his state, oppresses his people and subverts the rule of law, it is everybody’s business. … Mr Guaidó has won the backing of most of Latin America, as well as the United States and Europe. Protests planned for February 2nd promise to be even bigger. But Mr Maduro is supported by the army as well as Russia, China and Turkey.
Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó recognized as head of state by EU
(CBC) In a statement with the non-binding vote, the parliament urged the bloc’s 28 governments to follow suit and consider Guaidó “the only legitimate interim president” until there were “new free, transparent and credible presidential elections.” Britain, France, Germany and Spain said on Saturday, however, that they would recognize Guaidó unless Maduro called elections within eight days. But the EU as a whole has not set a time limit in its call for a new presidential vote.
Analysis: Putin wins, the longer Venezuela’s Maduro hangs on
Juan Guaidó barred from leaving Venezuela
In Venezuela, Canada promotes democracy. The U.S. does not
By Ben Rowswell, Canada’s ambassador to Venezuela from 2014 to 2017
There’s No Case for War With Venezuela
The public doesn’t want it. Congress won’t authorize it. So why is the Trump administration declaring it an option?
(The Atlantic) If a war were begun, neither Congress nor the public would possess the resolve to see it through to a successful conclusion.
A war of that sort might be less likely if the media organizations reporting on Trump administration saber-rattling always pointed out that actually waging war would be flagrantly unlawful, rather than proceeding as if this is a matter properly decided by the White House. But much of the press has accustomed itself to an imperial presidency, so the Constitution’s mandates often go unmentioned.

Lima Group bloc will meet in Canada on Feb. 4 for Venezuela talks
Canada hosting ‘urgent’ Lima Group meeting on Venezuela as U.S sanctions oil
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Monday called on Nicolas Maduro to cede power to Venezuela’s National Assembly, “the only remaining democratic institution” in the country.
“This is our neighbourhood,” Freeland said when asked why Canada was taking the democratic crisis so seriously.
“Our work in the Lima Group, our work on Venezuela, has been one of our government’s top foreign policy priorities.”
Canada is right to recognize Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela
The hands of Venezuelans have been tied for years. They want change
Trump steps up Maduro pressure with sanctions on Venezuelan oil company
Sanctions on $7bn in assets intended to boost Guaidó
John Bolton keen to counter ‘penetration’ from Cuba and Iran
The Trump administration has tightened the screws on Venezuela’s embattled president, Nicolás Maduro, announcing sanctions against the country’s state-owned oil company PDVSA in what the US national security adviser admitted was partly an attempt to counter strategic threats from Cuba and Iran.
At a briefing in the White House, the US treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, told reporters the sanctions would help punish “those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline” and boost Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader who last week declared himself Venezuela’s rightful interim president and was recognized by the United States.
“It is a complete tragedy to have a humanitarian crisis in a country that has very rich resources,” Mnuchin said.
The sanctions – which represent the US’s toughest economic move against Maduro to date – come five days after Guaidó’s dramatic declaration sparked Venezuela’s latest political crisis.

27 January
Photo credit: Reuters: Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Who Is Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó?
(NPR) In less than a month, Juan Guaidó has risen from obscure, junior lawmaker to self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela and the most serious threat yet to the authoritarian government of Nicolás Maduro.
A youthful-looking industrial engineer, Guaidó, got his start in politics by organizing student protests against the late Hugo Chávez, who ushered in Venezuela’s socialist revolution two decades ago. In 2013, Chávez died of cancer and was succeeded by Maduro.
As a member of the Popular Will party, Guaidó in 2015 won a seat to the National Assembly – Venezuela’s legislature – amid an opposition sweep of congressional elections. But that momentum quickly stalled.
Guaidó, who defied Maduro by taking the oath of office on Wednesday, claims to lead a transitional government that will call free elections and return Venezuela to democracy. The 35-year-old was immediately recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate leader by the United States, Canada and most Latin American nations and received widespread support from European countries.
Partly because more prominent politicians have been sidelined, the National Assembly in early January named Guaidó as its president. Venezuela’s constitution states that the head of the National Assembly takes over should the presidency become vacant, as the opposition claims it has under Maduro.
After consulting with U.S. and Latin American officials, according to the Associated Press, the opposition organized nationwide street marches on Wednesday and held a make-shift outdoor ceremony where Guaidó took the oath of office and launched his parallel government.

Power & Politics NDP questions Trudeau’s response to Venezuela crisis (video)
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the Trudeau government should not be siding with the U.S. over the crisis in Venezuela, after Canada recognized Juan Guaido as the interim president of that country.  Includes excellent interview with Ben Rowswell, Canada’s former ambassador to Venezuela, who articulately defends Canada’s position stating that backing Guaido and the National Assembly is standing with the only democratically elected institution left in the country while striking its own path.

23 January
U.S. recognizes opposition leader as Venezuela president, weighs oil sanctions
(Reuters) With street protests against Maduro underway across Venezuela, Trump said the United States recognized Juan Guaido, head of the opposition-controlled Congress, as the country’s leader and called socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s government “illegitimate.”
“I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” Trump said in a statement.
After Trump’s announcement, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Paraguay made similar moves, and a Canadian official said Ottawa would also follow suit. But Mexico said it did not foresee a change in policy on Venezuela.

10 January
Canada slams Venezuela’s Maduro’s 2nd term as ‘illegitimate’ as he is sworn in
Thursday’s inauguration of Nicolas Maduro has solidified him as a dictator, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a scathing denunciation of the Venezuelan president that aligned Canada with major allies.
Freeland characterized Maduro’s recent election victory as illegitimate as he was sworn in for a second term in Caracas. Canada joined the United States and 17 Latin American governments in rejecting the legitimacy of the new Maduro government.

9 January
(The Economist) On Thursday, January 10, Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela, will be sworn in for a second six-year term. Mr Maduro has a claim to be the worst president of any country not at war. Under him Venezuela’s GDP has dropped by nearly half, violence has soared and health care has all but collapsed. A tenth of the population, about 3m people, has emigrated since 2014. How long Mr Maduro remains in power depends on the loyalty of his cronies

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