Venezuela Crisis Escalates as Opposition Protests
On Saturday, protests formed nationwide in Venezuela as supporters of Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim president on Jan. 23, took to the streets. Crowds have gathered in Venezuela’s major cities, including Caracas, Maracaibo, Valencia, and Puerto Ordaz. The demonstrations seek to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to step down and call new elections.
Venezuela, long-plagued by political and economic turmoil, reached a new state of crisis last week when Guaidó, an all-but-unknown politician, was elected head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. He then declared himself interim president of Venezuela, escalating the crisis to new heights.
President Maduro was re-elected to a second term on Jan. 10 amid claims that the election was fraudulent. The opposition boycotted the election, and international governments refused to recognize its legitimacy.
Guaidó was recognized as the legitimate president by the United States and Canada shortly after declaring himself interim president. Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru followed suit soon after.
Germany, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom have given Maduro until Sunday to call new elections, otherwise, they will follow suit and recognize the legitimacy of Guaidó’s presidency.
The top military envoy to the U.S. in Venezuela also threw his support behind Guaidó, along with Air Force General Francisco Yanez, the highest ranking active military official to do so.
While pressure builds internationally and from the opposition, Maduro still enjoys the support of the Venezuelan military, as well as backing from major powers like Russia, China, and Turkey.
Venezuelans have faced increasing hardship in recent years due to political turmoil, hyperinflation, and shortages of medicine and healthcare services. Hyperinflation caused prices to double every 19 days in 2018, making basic necessities and food nearly impossible to afford.
According to the UNHCR, nearly 3 million people have fled Venezuela since 2014, one of the largest exoduses in Latin America.