All You Need to Know About Venezuela’s Presidential Crisis

Elected in 2014, the sitting president, Nicólas Maduro, has led the economy into a downward spiral by choosing to continue the many socialist policies previously imposed by his predecessor, Hugo Chávez. A product of these economic policies has been hyperinflation; the inflation rate is currently at 1.3 million percent, putting 9 out of 10 citizens into poverty. Over ten percent of the population has fled the nation to escape poverty and find a better life elsewhere, and those who remain face food and medicine shortages.

Seeing the Venezuelan populace struggling, Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president on January 11 of this year on the basis of the supposed illegitimacy of Maduro’s second re-election. Numerous countries have backed Guaidó, including the U.S., Canada and Brazil, but China and Russia still remained allied with Maduro for political and economic reasons.

Despite Guaidó declaring himself interim president, it appears his statement really has no weight so long as the military remains loyal to Maduro. Guaidó has promised amnesty to members of the military if they purposely disobey Maduro’s orders, yet members still hold to the phrase, “Loyal always, traitors never” with regard to the Maduro regime.

At the beginning of February, the U.S. sent $60 million worth of humanitarian aid to Venezuela through Colombia, but Maduro and his military had the roads blocked to prevent the aid from reaching the country. Maduro’s reasoning? The people of Venezuela aren’t “beggars,” and Maduro along with his political allies believe that the U.S. is using the aid and Guaidó’s interim presidency as a means to implement their own democratic ideals and gain access to Venezuela’s oil – and that may not be entirely wrong. The U.S. is already the biggest importer of Venezuela’s oil, and with democratic Guaidó as interim president, a potential alliance may be on the horizon, making Venezuela’s reserves more accessible.

Similarly, Russia and China, socialist regimes akin to Maduro’s, want Maduro to stay in power in order to gain access to Venezuela’s oil reserves and have some political sway in the Western hemisphere. Both Russia and China are considered “lenders of last resort” to Venezuela, with Russia lending over $10 billion since the early 2000s, and China lending over $56.2 billion since 2007 in exchange for oil. Losing their relationship with Maduro would mean all the lending was a sham as two socialist nations are less likely to build close relationships with a democratic leader.

In the end, if Guaidó hopes to succeed Maduro, he needs support from the military and more countries to give him diplomatic recognition. Guaidó already has the support of the U.S., EU, Canada and Brazil, some of the world’s most powerful economies, but he still needs to incentivize the military to join his side – and at this rate, it may not be that hard; the people of Venezuela, including the military, are starving and lack the most basic things such as toilet paper and medicine. If Maduro cannot provide these basic necessities, the military may turn on him and back Guaidó out of desperation.