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Responses to the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis

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Countries recognizing presidential power during the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis as of 28 February 2019:
  Venezuela
  Neutral
  No statement
  Recognize Guaidó
  Support National Assembly
  Recognize Maduro

During the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis concerning who is the legitimate President of Venezuela, reactions and responses to the crisis have been divided.[1]

On 10 January 2019, Venezuela's opposition-majority National Assembly declared that incumbent Nicolás Maduro's 2018 reelection was invalid and the body declared its president, Juan Guaidó, to be acting president of the nation.[2][3] On 23 January 2019, Guaidó swore "before Almighty God (...) to formally assume the power of the national executive office as the [Acting] President of Venezuela".[4]

Maduro's government states that the crisis is a coup d'état led by the United States to topple him and control the country's oil reserves.[5] Guaidó denies the coup allegations, saying peaceful volunteers back his movement.[6] Countries and organizations have recognized Guaidó as acting president, while others have recognized Maduro; some have expressed neutrality, and some recognize the National Assembly but not Guaidó.

Reactions

Washington, D.C. public assembly

On 15 January, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Maduro "an illegitimate dictator",[7] with United States National Security Adviser John R. Bolton and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also using the same term.[8][9]

International demonstrations occurred on both sides, with massive[10] gatherings in more than 70 cities worldwide[11] supporting Guaidó,[12][13][14][15] and others supporting Maduro.[16][17][18]

Beatriz Becerra—on the day after she retired as head of the human rights subcommittee for the European Parliament—said that the International Contact Group, jointly sponsored by Uruguay and Mexico, had been of no use and "has been an artifact that has served no purpose since it was created". She said there had been no progress on the 90-day deadline for elections that the group established when it was formed, and she considered that the Contact Group should be terminated and efforts coordinated through the Lima Group.[19]

Governments

International

Mexico and Uruguay announced an international conference for countries with a neutral position in Montevideo on 7 February.[20] Uruguay has since recognized Maduro as president, with foreign minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa comparing the worsening situation to the United States' rationale for the Iraq War.[21][a]

 Brazil: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said that he would do all he could to "re-establish order, democracy and freedom" in Venezuela.[25] The Bolsonaro administration declared on 12 January 2019 that it recognizes Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela.[26]

 China: China was originally forthcoming with support to Maduro with Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying stating that China "supports efforts made by the Venezuelan government to protect the country’s sovereignty, independence, and stability" and "opposes foreign forces from interfering into Venezuela affairs".[27][28] In early February there were reports that it was taking a more neutral position for fear of alienating potential relationships in major South America countries which support of Guaidó, as well as due to frustration with Venezuela's inability to repay debt, China having lent Venezuela $67B USD. Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, stated that China's trade deals would not be affected “no matter how circumstances change," and further stated that China has been in talks with "all sides".[29][30] There also has been evidence of discontent in China's public over the amounts of money that have been given to Venezuela, which some state would be better used in China.[31] According to the Wall Street Journal, China has been holding meetings with diplomats from the government of Guaidó to discuss Chinese investments in Venezuela;[32] a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman denied these claims, stating that it is "false information".[33] On 8 March, Foreign Minister Wang Yi reaffirmed China’s opposition to the issued sanctions, and support for dialogue between Venezuela’s opposition and government. [34]

 Iran: Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman stated that Iran "supports Venezuela's [Maduro] government and nation against any kind of foreign interference in its internal affairs".[35]

 Russia: Russia has been a vocal supporter of Nicolas Maduro, as well as being a military and economic ally since under Hugo Chavez.[36] Russia has made shows of force, such as flying two Tu-160 nuclear capable bombers to Venezuela.[36] In addition to direct support Russia also acts vocal supporter of Maduro in the UN, and has been one of the country's principal arms dealers.[37] Domestic reactions in Russia to the situation have been mixed with some publications praising Russia's support of Maduro and its willingness to confront the US, and others criticizing economic aid to Venezuela which they deem an economic black hole.[36] The Russian national oil company Rosneft has invested heavily in numerous joint ventures with Venezuela's state-run oil company, PDVSA. Rosneft has made direct investments in six Venezuelan oil fields totaling around $2.5B USD.[38] Rosneft has also acted as a major lender, and oil marketer for Venezuela aiding it in selling 225,000 barrels per day in crude supplies overseas. It has made large loans to the company with $2.7B USD outstanding; to offset risk PDVSA has pledged a 49.9% stake of subsidiary Citgo as collateral for loans outstanding.[39]

 Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan phoned Maduro to offer support.[40] According to Haaretz, "Erdogan pledged to invest in Venezuelan's failing economy during the trip, with Maduro claiming that Turkish businesses would pump some 4.5 billion euros into the country."[41][42] On 1 April, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told his Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Arreaza that Turkey will continue supporting the Maduro government and deepen its cooperation "in all fields" despite pressure from the United States.[43][44]

Elliott Abrams, a former foreign policy official under the Reagan and Bush administrations, was appointed the United States' Special Envoy to Venezuela

 United States (US): On 15 January, US President Donald Trump was reported to be deliberating whether to officially recognize Guaidó,[45] which he did on 23 January.[46][47][48] US Vice President Mike Pence released a video on 23 January in support of Guaidó and the people of Venezuela.[49][50] The US was the first nation to recognize Guaidó after he swore an oath on the 23rd, with Trump and Pence sending their support and solidarity as well as the official recognition; other countries followed suit.[51] In response Maduro ordered the expulsion of US diplomats, giving them 72 hours to leave Venezuela. The US said it would not close its embassy, stating their diplomatic relationship was with Guaidó's government, and holding Maduro responsible for the safety of its staff.[51][52][53] On 26 January 2019, only hours before the deadline, the Maduro government backtracked on its expulsion order, giving US diplomats another 30 days.[54] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed Elliott Abrams as US Special Envoy to Venezuela.[55] On 28 January, the US imposed sanctions on PDVSA. The US accounted for 41% of purchases from the company, which is the biggest input to Venezuela's economy.[56] On 22 February—the same day as the Venezuela Aid Live concert, which Maduro claimed was part of an effort to topple him—Venezuela extended the deadline for US diplomats to leave by another 30 days.[57] On 12 March, the US announced that it was withdrawing its diplomats from Caracas.[58]

  Vatican City: Corriere della Sera cited[59] a leaked copy[60][61] of a private letter reportedly sent by Pope Francis to Maduro on 7 February 2019[62] in reply to a letter Maduro wrote asking the pope to mediate.[63] Pope Francis' response—addressed to "His Excellency Mr Nicolás Maduro Moros"[59]—said that what had been agreed in earlier negotiations had not been followed.[62] Those conditions, still applicable, were: open a channel for humanitarian aid, hold free elections, free political prisoners, and re-establish the constitutionally-elected National Assembly.[64] According to Andrea Gagliarducci, writing for the Catholic News Agency, in not addressing Maduro as president, the Pope was agreeing with the stance taken by the Venezuelan bishops,[64] who hold that Maduro's election was illegitimate.[65]

Intergovernmental organizations

Guaidó communication to embassies in Venezuela: I am responsible for telling them that we are a sovereign nation and will continue to maintain diplomatic relations with all the countries of the world

 European Union (EU): More than half of its member states, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Spain, said they support Guaidó;[66][67] earlier, the EU issued a declaration saying it "fully supports the National Assembly as the democratically elected institution whose powers need to be restored and respected".[68] On 4 February 19 countries of the European Union made a joint declaration supporting and recognizing Juan Guaidó as acting president of Venezuela, asking that he "summons free, just and democratic presidential elections".[69] Italy's stance prevented this from becoming an official EU position.[70] The EU condemned the Constituent Assembly stripping of Guaidó's parliamentary immunity, calling the action a "serious violation of the Venezuelan constitution, as well as of the rule of law and separation of power".[71]

Lima Group: On 11 and 12 January, several nations of the Lima Group released statements independent from the international body, including their nations' agreement to not recognize Maduro.[72][73][74] The Maduro government claimed that these countries had "rectified" themselves to support him as president.[72][75] They had not; the non-intervention statements were seen as a concession to prevent rash action by Maduro after he broadly threatened the group.[72][74] Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, gave a different statement to the vice presidential office, saying that Venezuela had received diplomatic notices from some Lima Group countries about the original dispute.[72] Colombia's statement reiterated the group's resolution and pledged to support "the restoration of democracy and constitutional order in Venezuela", as well as saying that they did not have a position on the territorial dispute.[73] Arreaza contradicted the statement from his vice president's office that the Lima Group recognized Maduro's government, and doubled Maduro's 48-hour demand period for non-intervention for the remaining countries after it expired. He also advocated peaceful diplomatic discussion with neighboring countries.[76] The group—except for Mexico, which called for non-intervention in Venezuelan internal affairs[77]—continued to back the Guaidó government, with the Foreign Minister of Chile pledging "unlimited support".[78]

 Organization of American States (OAS): The OAS approved a resolution on 10 January 2019 "to not recognize the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro's new term".[79] Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, recognized Guaidó on 23 January.[80] In an extraordinary OAS session called for 24 January 16 countries including the US recognized Guaidó as president, but they did not achieve the majority needed for a resolution.[81] Almagro held countries who remained neutral on the presidential crisis responsible for the massacre, suffering, and human rights violations in Venezuela.[82]

 United Nations: A special meeting of the Security Council was held on 26 January to discuss Venezuela; no consensus was reached. Secretary General António Guterres called for dialogue to ease tensions.[83] Delegates from Maduro's government continued to represent Venezuela at the United Nations. On 14 February 2019, a group of UN delegates, including delegates of China, Russia and Venezuela itself, declared they would fight what they called the "illicit, American-led effort" to change the government of Venezuela. They accused the US of "using sanctions and emergency aid as political weapons against Venezuelans".[84] On 28 February the Security Council voted on two draft resolutions: one from the US calling for new elections in Venezuela, the entry of humanitarian aid, and the recognition of Guaidó as interim president; the other from Russia calling for dialogue between the Maduro government and the opposition in line with the Montevideo initiative of Mexico and Uruguay. Neither proposal was adopted. The US draft received majority support (nine votes in favor to three against), but was vetoed by Russia and China. The Russian draft received four votes in favor and seven votes against.[85][86]

National organizations

Tibisay Lucena, president of the pro-government National Electoral Council (CNE),[87][88] described Guaidó's declaration as a coup d'etat and claimed that his actions were carried out by a group of foreign governments, subordinated to the guidelines of the United States government that seeks to undermine Venezuela's sovereignty.[89] She also defended the 2018 Venezuelan presidential election results, saying that "the positions of popular representation are elected by the people".[90]

The Catholic Church in Venezuela, organized by the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela, released a statement by Monsignor Ovidio Pérez Morales on 15 January 2019 saying "The Church in Venezuela, united to its Bishops in communion with the Pope, declare the socialist-communist regime illegitimate and stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan people to rescue democracy, freedom, and justice. Trusting in God, they support the National Assembly".[65] Cardinal Porras declared: “This regime always calls for dialogue when it’s up to its neck in water but when the water level falls it forgets about it."[61]

Members of the pro-Maduro Constituent National Assembly stated that Guaidó's actions on 23 February solidified their support of Maduro.[91]

Social media

Despite internet blocks in Venezuela, by midday local time, the Twitter hashtag "#23Ene"—shorthand for "23 de Enero", Spanish for 23 January—was trending worldwide.[92] Later in the day, five of the top ten trends were protest-related: "Venezuela", "Juan Guaidó", "#23Ene", "#GritemosConBrio", and "#Guaido".[93] With protests continuing to the next day, "#24Ene" also trended.[94]

It was reported in the late evening that Instagram had removed the "Verified" label from Maduro's account, instead placing one on Guaidó's account; this was denied by Instagram.[95] Guaidó's description had also been updated to include "President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela".[96] The following day, Facebook un-verified Maduro.[97]

In January 2019, the Associated Press said that Maduro's administration[98] and Venezuela's state-run media[99] sought to discredit Guaidó with video footage[98] "to paint [him] as a liar and a fraud".[99] Venezuela's Communications Minister, Jorge Rodríguez, claimed to have proof of a meeting between Guaidó and United Socialist Party of Venezuela members, Diosdado Cabello and Freddy Bernal,[100][101] in which Guaidó allegedly said he was under pressure from the United States.[98] According to Guaidó, the meeting never happened.[99] Rodríguez' proof came as collated short video clips. One clip shows Cabello walking through a hotel lobby, then cuts to show a man in a hooded sweatshirt (alleged to be Guaidó) entering and crossing the hall in the same direction as Cabello.[99] The hooded man is heavily obscured and blurry,[102] and it is impossible to identify the person.[98][102]

Within minutes[103][104] of Venezuela's state-run media posting the video, the hashtag #GuaidoChallenge went viral, trending worldwide.[99] The hashtag made fun of the video posted by Rodríguez as supposed proof of this meeting.[102] On 27 January, Guaidó held a public assembly and again challenged the Maduro administration to produce evidence of the alleged meeting.[105] According to a translation on Caracas Chronicles, he said, "Show whatever you want, fabrications, with hoodie, without hoodie, audios. You confuse nobody here, the people see clearly."[105]

As a protest about what they called foreign intervention, pro-Maduro social-media users used the hashtag '#HandsOffVenezuela' to share videos, pictures, and comments.[106][107]

China, a supporter of Maduro, has censored information about the crisis according to Radio Free Asia.[108] Reports from China state that Chinese citizens who criticize Maduro on social media are punished or fined, with economist He Jiangbing saying that the Chinese government is "trying to prevent another color revolution ... because Venezuela and China are very similar".[108]

Recognition

Nations recognizing presidential power
  Venezuela
  Neutral
  No statement
  Recognize Guaidó
  Support National Assembly
  Recognize Maduro

Guaidó acting presidency

Foreign states

Non-UN states

Intergovernmental organizations

International organizations

Domestic organizations

Support of National Assembly

Foreign states

Non-UN states

Intergovernmental organizations

Maduro presidency

Foreign states

Non-UN states

Intergovernmental organizations

International organizations

Domestic organizations

Armed groups

Vocal neutrality

Several nations called specifically for non-intervention and, without supporting either side, asked for diplomatic discussions to be held to move forward.

Foreign states

Intergovernmental organizations

Public opinion

Reuters has described previous polls in Venezuela as being "notoriously controversial and divergent".[238] The Wall Street Journal described Datanálisis as "a respected pollster in Venezuela" in March 2019.[239]

Stratfor reported Maduro lost support of working-class Venezuelans as government handouts subsided;[240] the opposition to Maduro has proposed plans to end the economic crisis, resulting in increased support for them.[240] The Wall Street Journal reported that barrios are turning against Maduro in "a shift born of economic misery and police violence", adding that "many blame government brutality for the shift".[239] Pollster Datanálisis found that, among the poorest 20% of Venezuelans, Maduro's support had fallen to 18% in February 2019 from 40% two years earlier.[239]

An April survey of 1,000 voters conducted by Hercon Consultores found that 78% of Venezuelans recognized Guaidó as interim president.[241]

An 11–14 March 2019 survey of 1,100 people in 16 Venezuelan states and 32 cities by Meganálisis found that that 89% of respondents want Maduro to leave the presidency.[242]

A Datanálisis poll on 4 March found Guaidó approval at 61%, and Maduro's at all-time low of 14%. Guaidó would win 77% in an election to Maduro's 23%.[243]

A 2019 Gallup poll in Colombia, published in March, showed 80% of Colombians have a favorable opinion of Guiadó, 97% have a negative opinion of Maduro, and 45% believe the United States military should intervene in Venezuela.[244] President Iván Duque Márquez of Venezuela's neighboring Colombia was among the early supporters of Guaidó; an earlier (7–11 February) Colombian survey of 1,008 individuals in more than 20 cities, with a margin of error of 3%, found that his popularity had surged 15 points, partly because of his position on Venezuela, and that 70% of Colombians had a favorable view of Guaidó, and 93% had a negative impression of Maduro.[245]

Surveys between 30 January and 1 February by Meganálisis recorded that 84.6% of respondents recognized Guaidó as interim president, 11.2% were undecided and 4.1% believe that Maduro was president. The study of 1,030 Venezuelans was conducted in 16 states and 32 cities.[246][247]

A telephone survey of 999 Venezuelans by Hercon from 25 to30 January showed that 81.9% of respondents recognized Guaidó as president, 13.4% said Maduro was president and 4.6% were undecided.[248] A Meganálisis survey of 870 Venezuelans between 24 and 25 January reported that 83.7% of respondents recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president, 11.4% could not decide who was president and 4.8% recognized Maduro as president.[249]

A pre-23 January 2019 poll by Hinterlaces, a pollster headed by Constituent National Assembly member Oscar Schemel [es] and described as pro-Maduro,[238][250][251] reported that 86% of Venezuelans would oppose a military intervention, that 81% oppose US sanctions, and that 84% support dialogue to end the crisis.[252]

Surveys of 900 people between 19 and 20 January by Meganálisis reported that 81.4% hoped that Guaidó would be sworn in on 23 January while 84.2% supported a transitional government to replace Maduro's government.[253] A telephone survey of 1,000 registered voters by Venezuelan pollster Hercon, conducted from 15 to 19 January 2019, reported 79.9% of respondents agreeing with Maduro leaving the presidency. Regarding the National Assembly, 68.8% of respondents rated their work as being positive while 15.6% rated their actions as negative. When asked if they agreed with the National Assembly swearing in Guaidó as interim president, 68.6% agreed and 19.4% disagreed.[254]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b While Uruguay still recognizes Maduro as President, on 13 February the Uruguayan government released a joint statement with the Argentine government (who recognizes Guaidó) calling for new elections.[22][23][24]
  2. ^ The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recognized Guaidó, but the President of Bulgaria, has issued a statement condemning the foreign ministry's position, critisicing the EU's recognition of Guaidó and urging neturality[120][121][122][123][124]
  3. ^ Excluding Mexico.
  4. ^ El Salvador changed its mind several times. Initially supporting Maduro, an official statement released on 24 January said they recognized Guaidó; later that day another statement was released, reiterating their backing of Maduro.[195][196]
  5. ^ Palestine is not placed under non-UN states because it is a UN observer.

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