Venezuela 2019

Written by  //  May 16, 2019  //  Americas, Government & Governance  //  No comments

Venezuela’s Hyperinflation Hits 80,000% Per Year in 2018

Russia and Cuba Could End the Venezuelan Catastrophe. Seriously.
The Trump administration should include Havana and Moscow in its efforts to remove Maduro from power.
By Professor Jorge G. Castañeda
(NYT opinion) Russia has become a major player in the drama. Venezuela was on the agenda when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo first spoke with his Russian counterpart in Moscow in March, when they met in Helsinki earlier this month, and again this week in Sochi. President Trump discussed the Venezuelan situation with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on May 3. Nothing seems to have come from these exchanges. But it’s clear that there are stark differences between the two governments, and a growing awareness on Russia’s part of how much Washington cares about the matter.
Washington has a strong hand to play, but it must do so wisely. If in fact Mr. Trump wants to do away with both governments in Cuba and Venezuela, or if he is really after regime change only in Cuba, this will lead to failure and invariably anger the country’s democratic partners in Latin America and Europe. With the exceptions of Nicaragua, Bolivia, Uruguay and Mexico, the region wants Mr. Maduro out. But it will not support Mr. Trump in any effort to dislodge the Cuban dictatorship.
…  Mr. Trump should continue to press Cuba to join its efforts to remove Mr. Maduro. The country can play a crucial role by affording him a safe haven and by participating in the transitional arrangements that would ensure a democratic transition: freeing all political prisoners and allowing all opposition leaders to run for office in free, fair and internationally supervised elections, re-establishing freedom of the press and association, gradually and peacefully reducing its footprint in Venezuela. Mr. Trump should engage Russia to persuade the Cubans to do so. And he should remember that after all, there is no carrot and stick approach without a carrot.

9 May
Venezuelan lawmakers seek refuge in embassies after crackdown on Guaido allies
(Reuters) – Two Venezuelan lawmakers sought refuge at foreign embassies in Caracas on Thursday, as the government of President Nicolas Maduro cracked down on allies of opposition leader Juan Guaido who supported his attempted uprising last week. The ex-head of the state intelligence service, Manuel Cristopher, the top Maduro government official to defect during the uprising, also spoke out for the first time on Thursday, urging Venezuelans to “build a new state” and combat corruption.The moves came the day after authorities arrested Edgar Zambrano, the opposition-run National Assembly’s vice president.

7 May
Venezuela’s opposition debates new tactics as diplomats race to defuse crisis
(WaPo) After the failure of last week’s plot to oust President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s opposition and its foreign backers are debating a new approach: extending an offer to senior government and military officials to join a post-Maduro transitional government — while also heightening the threat of U.S.-led intervention.
As the political crisis here deepened Tuesday, diplomatic activity was rapidly accelerating, particularly among nations concerned over the growing U.S. drumbeat on military options.
The European Union called on the Vatican and the United Nations to join talks to defuse tensions. Canada and other nations were seeking to enlist Cuba — one of Maduro’s closest allies — in finding a peaceful solution.
The United States, in an attempt to lure more defectors, lifted sanctions Tuesday on Maduro’s spy chief, who last week broke with the socialist leader and fled the country.

5 May
Putin Is Ready to Give Up Venezuela for the Right Price
Sergei Lavrov and Mike Pompeo will soon meet in Helsinki to discuss Venezuela’s future.
By Vladimir Frolov
(Moscow Times) Last week, Russia and Cuba may have thwarted a U.S. backed plot to engineer a peaceful transfer of power from Nicolas Maduro to a transitional government led by interim president Juan Guaido and Venezuela’s top officials, including Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno.
On May 3, U.S. President Donald Trump called Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to flag American concerns over Russia’s “disruptive role” in Venezuela and stress his country’s determination to ensure Venezuela’s return to democratic rule.
The Kremlin was struck by [NSC Senior Director for Europe, Russia and Eurasia Fiona]  Hill’s prioritization of Venezuela as the most important issue in the relationship due to its direct impact on U.S. politics and the 2020 presidential race in Florida. Moscow concluded then it found an issue it could use to force the U.S. to grant concession elsewhere, most notably in Ukraine.

4 May
Guaidó says opposition overestimated military support for uprising
After a dramatic week that saw a clandestine plan to oust President Nicolás Maduro fall apart on Tuesday, Guaidó conceded that the opposition had miscalculated its support within the military.
In an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, Guaidó suggested that he expected Maduro to step down amid a groundswell of defectors within the military. Instead, Guaidó’s call for the rank and file and senior brass to abandon Maduro did not produce mass defections. Maduro’s security forces then quelled street protests and left Guaidó’s U.S.-backed opposition on its heels.
…the unraveling of a carefully laid plan to oust Maduro, including negotiations with his senior loyalists, has generated rifts within the opposition. Some of its senior leaders have issued recriminations over what went wrong. The sniping risks robbing the opposition of what became its single strongest asset in recent months: unity.

1 May
Venezuelan authorities say they are putting down a small coup attempt after opposition leader Juan Guaidó announced he was in the “final phase” of ending President Nicolás Maduro’s rule. He appeared in a video with uniformed men, saying he had military support. Mr Guaidó, who declared himself interim president in January, called for more members of the military to help him end Mr Maduro’s “usurpation” of power. But military leaders appeared to be standing behind Mr Maduro. Venezuela’s defence minister appeared on television to stress the point. However, photos from Caracas show some soldiers aligning themselves with Mr Guaidó’s supporters.Mr Maduro’s detractors hope the military will change its allegiance as resentment grows following years of hyperinflation, power cuts, food and medicine shortages. So far, they have stood by Mr Maduro – despite dozens of countries, including the UK, the US and most of Latin America, recognising Mr Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader.” (BBC https://bre.is/55HSAEeJ4)

30 April
The Atlantic: Venezuela’s crisis continues, and the opposition leader now calls for an uprising. Juan Guaidó appeared alongside soldiers today to demand the ouster of President Nicolás Maduro—leading to a spate of violent clashes. Economic strife has ravaged the country in recent years, and three months ago, Guaidó, with backing from the United States, declared himself the interim president. In the battle for the future of Venezuela, one of the Trump administration’s approaches has been to pressure Cuba to pressure Venezuela. But for that geopolitical calculus to work, so much more needs to fall in line.
Blackwater founder’s latest sales pitch: mercenaries for Venezuela
(Reuters) – Erik Prince – the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump – has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, four sources with knowledge of the effort told Reuters.
Some U.S. and Venezuelan security experts, told of the plan by Reuters, called it politically far-fetched and potentially dangerous because it could set off a civil war. A Venezuelan exile close to the opposition agreed but said private contractors might prove useful, in the event Maduro’s government collapses, by providing security for a new administration in the aftermath.

23 April
‘Operation Blackout is underway’: Russia blames US for Venezuela power crisis
Deputy defence minister says US using a ‘broad range of techniques’ in bid to oust president Nicolás Maduro
(The Guardian) Russia has accused the United States of deliberately causing a succession of crippling power cuts in Venezuela as part of a plot to topple its president, Nicolás Maduro, dubbed “Operation Blackout”.
The crisis-stricken South American country has been rocked by a series of nationwide power outrages since 7 March, which Maduro’s government has blamed on US-backed saboteurs and snipers but most experts attribute to poor maintenance and a bush fire that destroyed a key section of Venezuela’s power grid.
In an interview with the Moscow-funded broadcaster RT, however, Russia’s deputy defence minister, Alexander Fomin, backed Maduro’s version of events.

12 April
Red Cross aid to Venezuela to triple as Maduro stance softens
International Committee of the Red Cross to increase budget to $24m after president approves humanitarian assistance

29 March
Red Cross Granted Access to Deliver Aid in Venezuela
(NYT) The Red Cross said Friday it had received permission from Venezuela’s government and opposition to roll out one of the organization’s biggest global relief campaigns, signaling a possible easing in the dire humanitarian emergency gripping the country.
The announcement amounted to the first tacit acknowledgment by the government of Nicolás Maduro that Venezuelans are suffering from lack of food and other basics.
In scale and ambition, the relief effort could become an “operation very similar to what is happening in Syria,” said Francesco Rocca, the president of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, to reporters in Caracas on Friday. “It obviously will not and cannot solve the country’s problems, but it’s a necessary step to save lives.”

24 March
Russian air force planes land in Venezuela carrying troops: reports
(Reuters) – Two Russian air force planes landed at Venezuela’s main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops, according to media reports, amid strengthening ties between Caracas and Moscow.

14 March
The Economist: At least 40 people have died in Venezuela as a result of the country’s longest-ever power cut, which affected all 23 states. Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s dictator, has claimed that the “demonic” government of the United States is responsible for the failure of the grid as part of its efforts to topple him. But incompetence and corruption, exacerbated by the fact that half the skilled employees of the state-run electricity monopoly have emigrated, are probably to blame

10 March
Nerves fray, tempers flare as Venezuela blackout hits fourth day
(Reuters) – Furious Venezuelans lined up to buy water and fuel on Sunday as the country endured a fourth day of a nationwide blackout that has left already-scarce food rotting in shops, homes suffering for lack of water and cell phones without reception.
Authorities have managed to provide only patchy access to power since the outage began on Thursday in what President Nicolas Maduro called an act of U.S.-backed sabotage, but critics insist it is the result of incompetence and corruption.
Lines at fuel stations extended for blocks as drivers queued for gasoline and busses waited to fill up with diesel. Families stood under the sun to buy potable water, which is unavailable for most residents whose homes do not have power.

6 March
Venezuela orders German ambassador to leave
Nicolás Maduro’s administration accuses Daniel Kriener of ‘crass’ and ‘unlawful’ meddling in Venezuelan affairs
(The Guardian) Friction between Maduro and European diplomats has been growing since 10 January when Caracas-based ambassadors, including Kriener and his British counterpart, Andrew Soper, boycotted the inauguration ceremony for Maduro’s disputed second term.
Tensions intensified last month when European countries including the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden and Denmark officially recognised Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president after Maduro ignored calls for fresh presidential elections.
Addressing a sitting of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled national assembly on Wednesday, the opposition lawmaker Omar Barboza said the decision reflected “the deepening of the totalitarian behaviour” of Maduro’s government and deserved condemnation.
The United States – Guaidó’s most important backer – stepped up its pressure on Maduro on Wednesday as Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, warned foreign banks and financial institutions not to do business with the Venezuelan strongman.

28 February
Russia, China veto US push for UN action on Venezuela
(euronews) Russia and China on Thursday vetoed a US push for the United Nations Security Council to call for free and fair presidential elections in Venezuela and unhindered aid access.
The US draft resolution garnered the minimum nine votes, forcing Russia and China to cast vetoes. South Africa also voted against the text, while Indonesia, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast abstained.
Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over a US-led campaign for international recognition of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader and head of the country’s elected National Assembly, over President Nicholas Maduro.
“We are seriously concerned about the fact that today’s meeting may be exploited as a step for preparations of a real, not humanitarian, intervention … as a result of the alleged inability of the Security Council to resolve the situation in Venezuela,” Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.

25 February
For the few, not the many: Meet the real beneficiaries of Venezuelan socialism
(CapX) The magnitude of this plunder explains why despite the very stark consequences for the Venezuelan population, subdued by a humanitarian crisis, there are still some lasting regime supporters. The Venezuelan military have benefited greatly from this corruption as well as from drug trafficking and illegal gold mining in the Amazonian basin.
Venezuelan oil money was also used to buy political loyalties across the region and finance the revolution’s propaganda abroad. So next time you read some Maduro disinformation, consider that it is financed with oil-money that could — and should — have been used to buy food and medicines for those Venezuelans who now suffer the double standards of the self-called revolutionary government.

After Venezuelan troops block aid, Maduro faces ‘diplomatic siege’
(Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro faced growing regional pressure on Sunday after his troops repelled foreign aid convoys, with the United States threatening new sanctions and Brazil urging allies to join a “liberation effort”. Juan Guaido, recognized by most Western nations as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, urged foreign powers to consider “all options” in ousting Maduro, ahead of a meeting of the regional Lima Group of nations in Bogota on Monday that will be attended by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

23 February
Some Aid From Brazil Pierces Venezuela’s Blockade, but Violence Erupts Along the Colombian Border
(NYT) An ambitious plan by Venezuela’s opposition to peacefully import foreign aid in truck convoys degenerated into deadly skirmishes Saturday along the impoverished country’s borders, with a smattering of supplies getting through but most of it blocked by armed loyalists of President Nicolás Maduro.
As the day progressed, some of the humanitarian aid pierced Mr. Maduro’s blockade, but most of it did not. And although a few members of the security forces defected, Mr. Guaidó’s hope that the armed forces would step aside and even join his flag-waving supporters did not come to pass.

Sanctions, Rock Concerts and Still Maduro May Not Go So Soon
(Bloomberg) Nicolas Maduro’s opponents are stepping up pressure on multiple fronts to unseat him as Venezuela’s president, but behind the scenes even staunch critics have their doubts. Josh Wingrove and Raymond Colitt write about the growing sense that Maduro is holding on to power longer than expected and measures to oust him could even backfire.

Trump and Venezuela
The implausible liberator
(The Economist) Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s dictator, has promised to block American-supplied shipments of food and medicines that volunteers working with Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s interim president, are expected to try to bring into the country tomorrow. The longer Mr Maduro survives, the more pressure President Donald Trump will face to intervene militarily. He should resist: an American invasion would deprive a new government of legitimacy and revive anti-imperialism across Latin America

21 Feb
Maduro and Venezuela’s Opposition Prepare for Dramatic Confrontation
(New York) Venezuela’s opposition lawmakers, lead by National Assembly leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaidó, boarded buses Thursday on their way to confront a blockade that’s keeping humanitarian aid away from the desperate citizens of the South American nation.
They left from Caracas early Thursday en route to the border with Colombia, where aid from the U.S. and other countries has piled up for weeks. They have two goals in mind ahead of a Saturday deadline to receive the aid: They want to let in food and medicine to help the millions of Venezuelans affected by the humanitarian crisis gripping the country. But they also want to deal a blow to President Nicolás Maduro, who has rejected the aid because he says Venezuelans are not “beggars.”
The aid is currently being held back by the Venezuelan military, which remains loyal to Maduro. But Guaidó, who has been recognized as the country’s rightful president by more than 50 nations, has warned the military that aid will enter the country “one way or another.”
He is reportedly betting that the troops amassed at the border will not resort to violence to stop a large group of civilians from bringing food and medicine into the country. And if the military allows the aid in, the opposition believes “they will essentially have recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s commander in chief,” the AP reports. They also believe that aid moving into the country, against Maduro’s wishes, will weaken his hold on power.

(The Atlantic) Humanitarian efforts aren’t generally controversial, but that hasn’t been the case with American aid to Venezuela. The Latin American country has been consumed by a cascading economic and hunger crisis, leading millions of Venezuelans to flee to neighboring Colombia. The U.S. government has responded by sending supplies such as groceries, vitamin supplements, and hygiene products to the country, but the aid has another, thinly veiled purpose —helping lead to the ouster of the country’s president, Nicolás Maduro. That ulterior motive has some aid workers fretting that the politicization of humanitarian initiatives could have disastrous effects.

18 February
Trump just issued an ultimatum to the Venezuelan military: abandon Maduro or else
Either Venezuela’s military leaders join Juan Guaidó or risk losing everything
(Vox) Since January, the Trump administration, joined by governments in the Americas and Europe, has called for Venezuela’s socialist president to step down, partly because the country has suffered an immense economic and humanitarian collapse during his rule. The US and others now support Guaidó, the leader of the country’s opposition-controlled legislative body, who claims he is the country’s rightful president. But Guaidó can’t govern the nation until the military supports him, and so far, the leaders of Venezuela’s military stand behind Maduro. Their resolve, however, is facing its biggest test yet.
Three US military planes arrived in neighboring Colombia on Saturday to deliver aid to Venezuelans desperately in need of humanitarian relief due to the country’s high inflation and hunger rates. Maduro has ordered the military to block the aid, saying that the assistance is tantamount to foreign intervention and denying Venezuela faces a crisis.
That may lead lower-level Venezuelan troops — who also suffer from economic hardship — to back Guaidó as he has repeatedly called for Maduro to let the aid into the country. To push those troops over the edge, Trump aimed his Tuesday address directly at them.
Panama Papers ‘tightened the noose’ on offshore assets of Maduro’s inner circle
In the wake of the scandal, it became harder to launder money through investment in Panamanian real estate for Venezuelans who grew rich on the back of their political connections
As authorities in the US, Panama and Spain home in on the Chavistas’ errant billions, those close to the regime are running out of time to secure their foreign assets. In any future rebuilding of the Venezuelan economy a strong emphasis is likely to be put on recovering stolen assets according to Pedro Armada, a Panama City based investigator and forensic accountant.

11 February
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 Rabble.ca, 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.

24 January
Venezuela: The Rise and Fall of a Petrostate
(Council on Foreign Relations) Venezuela’s descent into economic and political chaos in recent years is a cautionary tale of the dangerous influence that resource wealth can have on developing countries.
Since its discovery in the 1920s, oil has taken Venezuela on an exhilarating but dangerous boom-and-bust ride that offers lessons for other resource-rich states. Decades of poor governance have driven what was once one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries to economic and political ruin. If Venezuela is able to emerge from its tailspin, experts say that the government must establish mechanisms that will encourage a productive investment of the country’s vast oil revenues.

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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