Venezuela Civil Unrest

Meghan Pavlick ‘21, Arts-and-Entertainment Editor

Venezuela 2019: citizens are rioting in the street and fleeing the country in mass numbers due to the current political turmoil. The conflict stems from the bitter political rivalry between Nicolás Maduro, a socialist politician, and his opponent, Juan Guaidó, who most Venezuelans recognize as the legitimate president of Venezuela. Under the leadership of Maduro, who was elected in 2013, Venezuela has plunged into a dire economic crisis, a calamity that most Venezuelans blame on his corrupt policies. Additionally, Maduro has virtually served as a dictator for the past six years. The leader has fiercely guarded his power through illegal control of the polls, violent efforts to prevent opposition candidates from running, and forceful imprisonment of any dissidents. The brutal regime Maduro has constructed and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his election have caused the vast majority of Venezuelan citizens to not recognize Maduro as their leader. Because of Maduro’s unpopularity, Guaidó’s declaration on January 23 that he would usurp Madro as acting president was well-received. Maduro, however, has refused to relinquish his power.

At the moment, most western governments, including the US, recognize Guaidó as the President of Venezuela. Even though Guaidó has the support of many other countries, Maduro is backed by the Russian government, who provide military and economic assistance to Venezuela and the Venezuelan armed forces. Donald Trump has said that “all options are on the table” in regards to US intervention in Venezuela, possibly meaning military action. However, Russia has since warned the US to not get militarily involved in Venezuela. In response to the political corruption and unrest in Venezuela, people have taken to the streets to protest. At least 16 people have been killed, and up to 228 have been  wounded.

The turmoil has exacerbated Venezuela’s existing economic crisis. This disaster has caused a collapse in oil prices, extreme hyperinflation and food shortages around the country. Although many foreign countries have tried to import humanitarian aid resources, Maduro’s forces have blocked the border, often erupting into violent conflict. Consequently, many Venezuelans have been forced to flee to other countries, mostly Peru and Colombia, to avoid the civil unrest in Venezuela.