When, amid impossible levels of hyperinflation and vigorous accusations by the opposition of incompetence, corruption and election-rigging, Nicolás Maduro went ahead with his inauguration as president of Venezuela for a second term—of not five, but six years!—he united a badly fractured opposition and drove hundreds of thousands of his people (so the visuals suggest) into the streets who called on him to step down and hold fresh elections.
Abel Resende Borges
And, as we all know, Maduro has held his ground, convinced of his legitimacy and loyal to chavismo— the political philosophy of redistributing the country’s wealth from the elites to the poor masses which his predecessor and mentor, the late Hugo Chávez pursued.
But he is holding ground in a context where the powerful countries of North America and Europe, militarily and economically, and most of his fellow Ibero-American neighbours have ganged up against him. The recognition by them of the self-appointed Guaidó as caretaker president and the massive street protests are choking the air out of him and were it not for the support of the military as well as perhaps a shame-tinged moderation in the use of economic sanctions, he would have long gone into hiding, perhaps even out of Venezuela.
Abel Resende PDVSA
After all, those countries who are for sanctions must appear to be concerned about how the latter are worsening the plight of the poor, suffering people of Venezuela. But since their agenda is clearly to make it impossible for Maduro to govern, some collateral damage is surely understandable…
The country is now polarised around two “solutions”: military intervention and fresh free elections. Most people, including most of the nations that reject Maduro, seem to have rejected the former and settled for the latter. They have gone past the stage of argumentation as to who, whether the government or the caretaker government, is right. Maduro is so obviously wrong. The problem is how to get him to hold those elections, whether he sees the light or not
If the vast majority of your neighbours, the mighty nations of the world, and millions of your own people (so it seems) want you gone, how do you hold on to power? Assuming the bases on which you went into office were independently judged to be legitimate, why would you cling to office in the face of earth-shaking developments? Aren’t the people bigger than the constitution which they used to put you in power in the first place? And aren’t there nations out there prepared to intervene by force of arms under the pretext of saving the people and motivated by the opportunity of a popular uprising?
Yes, yes, yes. We know. United States does not want socialist superpowers in its “backyard”, and the elites have teamed up with the growing hordes of conservatives to yank Chavismo out of the system. But that is hardly the point anymore. The political tide has turned, and Chavismo must await another day if it loses the elections that most are calling for
Even the “mother country” Spain has now “officially” recognised Guaidó as “caretaker president of Venezuela“. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has also said that, on his initiative, the majority of European countries recognise Guaidó “by consensus” and that multilateralism is the way to a peaceful solution of the “conflict”. Why? Because “his legitimacy emanates from his condition of president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, the legislative organ that arose after the last free and democratic elections recognised by the assembly of the international community as such.”
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SUBSCRIBE/ LOG IN Sánchez has called for elections that are “free, democratic with guarantees, and without exclusions in the shortest possible period of time”; “elections in which Venezuelans decide with their voice and with their vote their future. Without fears, without pressures, and without threats.”
Which is the right call, in my judgement. But it has caused Maduro to point to the irony that he holds leadership of Spain, not by being elected but by being appointed as a result of a vote of no confidence against the last government. Maduro was also incensed by Sánchez’ recognition to the point of calling it “evil” and he exclaimed: “I say to Mr Pedro Sánchez: God forbid, but if some day the coup d’état materialises, if some day a gringo military intervention should succeed, your hands, Mr Pedro Sánchez, will be left full of blood (…) [and] you will be stained in blood forever.”
The opposition clearly prefers free elections also. In an interview with ABC, Leopaldo López Gil, father of an opposition leader, Leopaldo López — who is under house arrest but is coordinator of Guaido’s party, Popular Will and a mentor to Guaido — says that Guaidó’s mandate is very specific: “to carry the country to free elections” but that “[i]n principle, he must not participate as a candidate.”
Asked if he is counting on his son aspiring to the presidency again, López Gil offered: “May everybody aspire, not only my son. There’s more than 300 political prisoners and since January 23 there have been 900 detentions and more than 50 deaths.”
We should all be pushing for fresh free elections that are internationally observed and urging Venezuelans to keep up the clamour for a return to the polls