Earlier today Venezuelans took to the street to protest against Nicolas Maduro’s Chavista regime in Venezuela, but this protest was far from ordinary. Since Chavez’s death, the once oil-rich country has faced massive economic collapse and food shortages, a brutal militarized crackdown on civil protests, and an exodus of at least three million Venezuelans seeking better lives in neighboring countries. Today may be the beginning of the end for the Maduro regime, as the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaido, has declared Maduro’s presidency as constitutionally illegitimate, leaving the office of the presidency vacant.
Tensions in Venezuela have been high for years, but the past week has been particularly difficult. This declaration comes only two days after a suspected military revolt to oust Maduro was squashed. Maduro’s defenders blamed the incident on far right agitators, but many Venezuelan’s supported that effort as a push for freedom in the Bolivarian Republic.
Guaido, the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, has been in office since January 5th following an election in December. Slightly over a week later, Guaido was intercepted by Venezuelan intelligence on his way to a rally and briefly detained. Guaido has been highly critical of Maduro’s presidency but is by no means a right-wing agitator, he is a left-leaning centrist who wants democracy restored in the former bastion for freedom in South America. Guaido has called Maduro’s inauguration illegitimate for some time, but today’s declaration makes it clear that Maduro is on is way out unless he wants war.
The international community has largely been supportive of Guaido, President Trump issued a statement of support as did Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. Other countries to support the new government include Chile, Guatemala, Peru, Canada, and other Latin American nations. Mexico, under newly elected socialist leader AMLO, and socialist Bolivia will be supporting Maduro’s claim. Maduro’s regime has also asked all US diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours.
With little backing in the legitimately elected government, an angry populace, and weak support in the international community, Maduro faces the total collapse of the Chavista regime. We will soon know if Maduro is willing to put up a strong fight, but there have already been deadly clashes. Hopefully, these are the death throes of a dying Marxist regime, rather than signs of an all out civil war.