A Deepening Crisis in Venezuela
Venezuela's economic and political troubles were not started overnight. They have been festering for many years dating back to the pre-Maduro era of former president Hugo Chavez and they involved failures to make market reforms within a pressured socialist system in a region dominated by American and Canadian capitalists.
But yesterday, the land of the natural wonder, Angel Falls and the home to many exquisitely beautiful women, suffered an even deeper crisis as opposition leader and head of the Venezuelan National Assembly (a legislative body), Juan Guaido, proclaimed himself interim president of Venezuela in a shocking rebuke to second-term President Nicolas Maduro, who was only days ago sworn in for another six-year term.
In another affirmation of rebuke to Maduro, United States (US) President Donald Trump immediately recognized Guaido as Venezuela's interim president, so did Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Peru - 11 of the 14-member Lima group, with St. Lucia, Guyana, Mexico, Bolivia and Cuba holding in support of the elected Maduro.
Guaido's proclamation to the interim presidency and done before a large anti-government protest crowd, was a first for such claims in Latin America. While Venezuelan election results name Maduro as the winner of last May's presidential elections with more than 67% of the vote, Guaido, who heads the elected National Assembly, many Venezuelans, those nations that have recognized him as president and others, have claimed that last year's vote is null and void since many opposition candidates were barred from running.
Guaido's claim has been that as head of the elected National Assembly and since the vote for president should not be recognized, then Venezuela's constitution gave him standing to serve as interim president in the absence of a president. He cited Articles 233 and 333 of the Constitution as giving him legitimacy. Article 233 names death, resignation, action by the Supreme Tribunal, permanent physical or mental disability, abandonment and recall by popular vote as reasons for removing a Venezuelan president. Article 333 simply guarantees the Constitution.
It is abundantly clear that Maduro's leadership has been explicitly toxic for Venezuela and for Venezuelans. As long as he is leader, the nation will continue to suffer because Maduro's exterior enemies will never accept his standing.
Therefore, it seems reasonably fair per conventional and democratic wisdom that in lieu of Maduro's country-saving resignation, or the occurrence of one of the aspects to departure from rule under Venezuela's Constitution, then a recall by popular vote appears to be only option open to removing him from office. Yes, there are other options, but what about the repercussions and precedent that would be set?
[Written for the consideration of my regional friends within the Organization of American States (OAS) and within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).]