Venezuelan Unrest

Gavin Kuncl and Austin Liu

Unrest in Venezuela has become more and more rampant over the week, with the sitting President, Nicolas Maduro, refusing to leave office, and another named Juan Guaido claiming leadership due to fraudulent elections.

President Trump has thrown his support to Guaido, as well as administration officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence calling for Maduro’s departure.

Diplomatic relations broke between Venezuela and the United States when Guaido was recognized, and Maduro ordered U.S. diplomats to leave Caracas by Jan. 26. Maduro did eventually step back a little, allowing staff to stay for 30 days as a skeleton crew. Despite that, the US did order the departure of non-emergency personnel.

In addition to pressure from the United States, the European Union also commented on the situation. Giving him eight days to call for new elections or they would recognize Guaido as the leader. Maduro lashed out at the EU, “They must withdraw this ultimatum. Nobody can give us an ultimatum,” and no new elections have happened or been announced.

Guaido told The Washington Post that the opposition was ready to challenge the government authority by bringing much-needed food aid into the country. This aid would be possible by a $20 million pledge from the United States, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and the European Union. Aid has been attempted in the past, but Maduro has largely blocked them all, claiming that all the reports of mass hunger and disease were works of fiction created by his enemies. The “works of fiction” that Maduro has mentioned do exist, as hyperinflation has plummeted the availability of food.  A man named Ronny went as far to tell CNN that, “We can’t hold it in anymore. We are being crushed. We are beggars now, always begging. This isn’t political, it’s survival. People are killing each other for a kilo of rice, or flour, or water.” The economic mismanagement has made it so that a basket of water, nuts, cheese, ham and fruit cost $200. The value of the Venezuelan bolivar is so low, that the in-game currency of ‘World of Warcraft’ is worth seven times as much. One US dollar is worth 248,521 bolivares.

In addition, the ruling socialist party has become very authoritarian, controlling all institutions, stripping the democratically elected National Assembly of power, crushing anti-government demonstrations with security forces, vetoing attempts to democratically remove Maduro from a leadership role, and either arresting opposition leaders, forcing them into exile, or stripping them of the right to run for public office. Even the rising star of the opposition, Guaido, has been arrested before and could be arrested again.

Hundreds of thousands have been protesting, and locals have clashed with police. Even some opposition supporting lawmakers like Rafael Guzman are even participating. “They use their weapons against us, so people are using what they have,” Guzman told Reuters. Armed forces have also been raiding homes and taking residents. Currently, protesters have begun flinging bottles of excrement mixed with water at security forces. Not all protesters have embraced this tactic though. Both Guaido and defectors outside of Venezuela have called on the military to rise up against Maduro. However, the top brass of the military still firmly support Maduro but the rank and file are other stories. An anonymous soldier that talked to CNN said that he gets a dollar and a half on the first of every month, while the senior officers are rich. He also added that “I would say about 80% of the army is against the government, especially the troops, who are going through a lot more than the officers…”

Maduro’s rhetoric echos of pre-2016 North Korea. Where now North Korean officials are willing to meet and talk, they use to drop threats of war and or nuclear destruction almost daily. Maduro’s Instagram is filled to the brim with videos of chanting army personnel, parading the capabilities of the Venezuelan military. With one post, after translation, reading, “There was no empire capable of stopping the strength of the liberator army, our military are aware of it and with the same determination will defend our homeland.” Many other posts follow this trend.

As of Feb 6, the Maduro administration has blocked off the Tienditas Bridge with shipping containers, an oil tanker and makeshift fencing. This was done to deny the incoming foreign aid. “We are not beggars,” said Maduro. Cameras have also been found to be monitoring the activity on the bridge.

Fears about US intervention have also been going around.


2019 Venezuela Unrest Timeline


Jan. 2019


Jan. 10 – Nicolas Maduro is inaugurated for second term as Venezuelan President.


Jan. 11 – Rallies in Caracas are organized by National Assembly leader Juan Guaido in the streets of Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. National Assembly supports Guaido’s self-proclaimed title as interim President of Venezuela, basing his actions on the principles of Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution.


Jan. 13 – Guaido and two other journalists from Caracol Television and CNN are detained from by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN). Guaido is quickly released.


Jan. 15 – Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez pledges loyalty to Maduro. Rallies occur in the streets of Valencia, the third largest city in the country.


Jan. 17 to Jan. 22 – Thousands of Venezuelans continue to gather in multiple states in the country to express their support for Guaido. Violence emerges as supporters from both sides battle against each other in areas such as Caracas and San Jose de Cotiza.


Jan. 23 – Protests intensify. A 16 year-old boy and three other protestors lose their lives. As a result of the political crisis, a statue of former president Hugo Chavez burns in Bolivar. President  Donald Trump of the United States officially recognizes Guaido as Venezuelan president.


Jan. 26 – Colonel Jose Luis Silva representing Venezuela in Washington D.C. offers support for Guaido and encourages others to also support him publicly on social media.


Jan. 28 – United States President Donald Trump imposes sanctions on Venezuelan oil imports as further pressure to bring a quicker end to the Maduro government.


Jan. 29 – Control over Venezuelan assets is switched to Guaido. The Venezuelan Supreme Court responds by prohibiting Guaido from leaving the country and freezing his bank accounts.


Feb. 2019


Feb. 2 – Venezuelan Air Force general Francisco Esteban Yanez Rodriguez declares support for Guaido. The Venezuelan government tries to transport 20 tons of gold, but it is stopped amidst international pressure.


Feb. 4 – Seven European Union countries choose to recognize Guaido after a request to hold elections again in eight days was denied by Maduro.


Feb. 5 – The Lima Group, an organization consisting of 12 countries in the Americas inspired by ideas in the 2017 Lima Declaration to resolve the crisis in Venezuela, demands a change of political power and humanitarian aid be sent to Venezuela.


Feb. 7 – Venezuelan Armed Forces block a route on a bridge to keep humanitarian aid from entering through Colombia on Venezuela’s western border.


Feb. 20 – The Venezuelan deputy U.N. military attache Colonel Pedro Chirinos switches sides to support Guaido.


Feb. 21 – Former head of the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) publicly declares support for Guaido.


Feb. 23 – Many protesters mobilize near the Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda Air Base. Fighting between supporters of sides occurs at the border between Venezuela and Brazil. Members of the Venezuelan military escape to Colombia and are welcomed as they arrive. The Maduro government cuts off its relationship with Colombia.


Mar. 2019


Mar. 4 – Interim President Guaido returns to Venezuela at the Simon Bolivar International Airport.


Mar. 7 – A blackout spreads across the country. A majority of states in the country are left in darkness. The Maduro government accuses the opposition and the United States of this event, and the opposition accuses the Maduro government of its weakness and inability to deal with this problem.


Mar. 15 – American Airlines decides to not continue to offer flights to Venezuela due to increased risks of danger amidst the political unrest in the country.


Mar. 18 – The Venezuelan General Carlos Rotondaro who was sanctioned by the United States in the 2018 leaves Venezuela and switches sides to supporting Juan Guaido.


Mar. 21 – Juan Guaido’s Chief of Staff Roberto Marrero is arrested by the Maduro government after SEBIN officers broke into Marrero’s home early on Thursday. He is transported to well-known political prison in the country. Supporters of the opposition criticize these actions by the government to silence protests.


Mar. 25 – Some military planes belonging to Russia, an important ally of the current Venezuelan government headed by Maduro, are observed at an airport near Caracas.


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