Two governments were formed within one country, and the conflict between the supporters of these two governments is now affecting the international community as well. This is the story of Venezuela and the government of Nicolas Maduro and the transition government of Juan Guaidó. The economic crisis and political corruption, which started in 2012, have finally erupted. What has happened to Venezuela in the last 5 years?
New Constitution in 2017 and 2018 Election in Venezuela
The Beginning of a Dictatorship of Maduro
In 2014, two years after Maduro took over the presidency, the economy of Venezuela began to decline. For this reason, many citizens in Venezuela cumulated their complaints against the government, and the opposition party won nearly 70 % of the seats in the National Assembly. Since then, President Maduro has paved the way for a dictatorship by appointing his allies to Venezuela's highest court. Feeling the political crisis, he has prevented the opposition party from taking the majority of parliamentary seats by depriving three opposition lawmakers of their seats for having allegedly committed election fraud. In addition, President Maduro called on Congress to amend the 1999 Venezuelan constitution in 2017. The opposition party rejected to vote on the constitutional amendment based on fears that a Maduro-led dictatorship would ensue. Nevertheless, Maduro and the ruling United Socialists Party have taken all the seats in the National Assembly, leading to a situation in which the opposition parties have been deprived of many rights.
2018 Election and 2019 Budget Bill
In February 2018, President Maduro held the presidential election four months earlier than the date appointed by the Constitution, and he could win the election again. Many oppositional factions and the international community criticized the results of the election as being invalid, and the declaration of an interim government started to be discussed within the opposition. The conflict between President Maduro and the opposition party finally erupted at the council for the budget bill in 2019. As the opposition parties objected to President Maduro's proposed bill for 2019, President Maduro announced it without the National Assembly's consent, receiving the opinion from the highest court that it would be constitutional. (As mentioned above, judges of the highest court are all from Maduro’s allies). Finally, on January 12, 2019, Venezuela's opposition party declared an interim government with Juan Guaidó as acting president, on the basis of Article 233, 333 and 350 of the Venezuelan Constitution.
Why Have Many Citizens Erupted?
From Rich to Poor
Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves. Based on oil nationalization policies and high oil prices, it was ranked 1st in GDP among nations on the South American continent. With huge oil money that accounted for 96% of the national budget, Hugo Chavez, who was Maduro's predecessor, had implemented populist welfare policies such as free education and medical care for Venezuelans. After Maduro took presidency, however, Venezuela's economy began to face a crisis as oil prices continued to fall due to the development of shale-oil in 2014. However, Maduro pursued a short-sighted policy, which continued to issue currency to stabilize prices rather than fundamentally changing the economic structure which relies solely on oil.
The Failure of Policy, and the Beginning of Chaos
Maduro's monetary solution for the economic crisis has led to further ruination of the lives of Venezuelans through hyper-inflation. General inflation is a phenomenon that results when prices rise as the amount of money in the market increases and the value of money decreases. However, excessive influx of currency due to the policy has led to hyper-inflation. Not considering the ripple effect of the enormous currency in the market, the prices rose up to 3,000,000% in 2018 (Bs1=$0.0003). As a result, Venezuelans face a situation in which they have to pay for meals at a restaurant in advance because the price of the meal actually goes up while they are eating it. Similarly, bus commuters must hand over a bundle of money to bus drivers in order to cover the bus fare.
Hyperinflation has also caused food shortages and malnutrition in Venezuela. Unprecedented inflation has made it difficult for people to buy food or other necessities. This disastrous situation was reflected in a survey conducted by universities in Venezuela. According to the survey, which polled the impacts of the devastated economy and food shortage among 6,168 Venezuelans aged from 20 to 65, 60 percent of respondents said they wake up in the morning due to hunger, and their average weight is 8 kilograms compared to last year.
Economic instability in Venezuela has also caused an increase in crime rates. As the economic indicators deteriorated in 2014, crime rates began to increase significantly. In particular, the situation in security has deteriorated to the extent that the murder index rate ranks 1st in the world. Although the Venezuelan government has not released domestic security-related indicators since 2014, the homicide rate in Venezuela in 2016 was around 90 per 100,000 people, according to Venezuela Violence Observatory (OVV), a non-governmental organization in Venezuela. Considering the average of the homicide rate was 6.2 per 100,000 in 2010, according to United Nation Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), this figure is really shocked.
Continuous Suffers in Venezuela
Controversy over International Community
Currently, the political situation in Venezuela has also led to conflicts among the international community. The U.S., and Western European countries, announced that they recognized Juan Guaidó and Venezuela's interim government. On the other hand, countries such as Russia, China and North Korea, which are at the center of anti-Americanism, have declared their support for president Maduro. In particular, as President Maduro began to use the military force to suppress civil protests, many countries signed up against the bloodshed. Due to the crisis in Venezuela, the UN Security Council, was held under France's UN Security Council, on January 29, 2019, to discuss the recognition of the interim government. However, a disagreement has ensued between the United States, which defines Maduro as a dictator and calls for Juan Guaidó to be president, and Russia and China, which claim intervention in Venezuela finally led to nothing. After the meeting, each country issued an official statement of support or sanctions against President Maduro.
Conflict over Relief Goods
Many non-profit organizations and other countries are trying to send relief to Venezuela, or Brazil and Colombia, which are adjacent to Venezuela. President Maduro, however, retains his stance that relief goods could not be brought into Venezuela due to a possibility of smuggled weapons, which could help civilian protests. Moreover, to prevent relief supplies from entering Venezuela, it is blocking access to all borders adjacent to Colombia and Brazil. In particular, serious conflicts are taking place at the borders. Currently, President Maduro is mobilizing soldiers to subdue civilian forces using rubber bullets and tear gas, and civilian troops are resisting them using firebombs and stones, accessing to relief supplies for survival. This has caused many casualties to civilians. According to the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC), at least 40 people were killed and 696 citizens were detained as of January 23rd. Others are leaving Venezuela to escape the chaos. The UNHRC has also released statistics that the ongoing turmoil has left about 3 million people migrating to neighboring countries by 2018.
Future in Blackout
Juan Guaidó returned to Venezuela on March 4 amid threats of arrest and has led protests against President Maduro. On the other hand, Maduro is still continuing his dictatorial move with his supporters across Venezuela, arresting foreign journalists as well as local media to prevent reports about the current crisis in Venezuela. He even detained a chief staff of Juan Guaidó on March 21. Meanwhile, a nationwide blackout has occurred due to a breakdown of Venezuela's central power supply system since March 8. Without providing sufficient information about the recovery of power outage, President Maduro continued to announce this was due to Guaidó’s attack. This remark, however, has generated even more public outrage.
President Maduro, who was busy satisfying his ambition, ultimately destroyed a country's economy, plunged its political system into chaos, and finally brought the lives of his people to despair. Now, citizens are fighting against soldiers for their freedom and for the safety of their families. There should be no more civilian casualties in Venezuela. Maduro must take responsibility for overstepping his role as a president and put down his gun, which is now aimed at those who want to protect Venezuela. < 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >