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Weekly Session 8 - Venezuela

Secretary Wed, 01/30/2019 - 22:13

Venezualian Crisis


Official Welcome Back to everyone; Hope you all had a fantastic Winter Break.
1st session this semester, tomorrow Thursday 31st January, we'll dive into the Venezuelan Crisis and get those thoughts rolling.

------Study Guide-------


On April 2nd 2002, a US-backed coup made up of the Fedecamaras (Venezuela’s primary business union) and the CTV held a strike at the presidential palace which was followed by military generals calling for then-president Chavez’s arrest. After his arrest, Pedro Carmona (leader of the Fedecamaras) became president with US support, though he was swiftly deposed on April 13th, 2002 and Chavez reinstated. Chavez led the country until his death in 2013, where during his time in office he drew up a new ‘Bolivarian magna carta’ to strengthen and legitimise the office of president. A large opposition formed against Chavez during his time in office, namely due to disagreement with policy, his anti-american views and his expanding control over the military. Chavez reformed Venezuela itself and began to exploit its abundant oil reserves (the largest in the world) to the benefit of the people of Venezuela through populist social policies to increase public spending and reduce income disparities and poverty across the nation. With the death of Chavez, Maduro, Chavez’s appointed successor and vice-president was voted into the presidency in a shortened election in 2013 gaining 50.61% of the votes and his opposition gaining 49.12%. There were complaints of election fraud from the opposition and demands for a recount, but Maduro was proclaimed President regardless. The swearing-in of Maduro coincided with a crash in the price of oil (from $100 per barrel to $50 per barrel), a commodity upon which Venezuela was now totally reliant (as it had become a petro-state) and was no longer able to fund the excesses of Chavez’s populist policies the country spiralled into economic catastrophe. This began with mass unemployment and shortages in common goods and medical products where the decrease in food available has resulted in 74% of Venezuelans losing 8.6kg on average. Meanwhile the economy continues to fail and in 2018 has begun a phase of extreme hyperinflation with an inflation rate of 1,370,000%. This was not helped by a 2015 recession and the decision by Trump in 2017 to further economically sanction Venezuela. This destabilised economy is largely at fault for the widespread civil unrest throughout Venezuela which led to 40 deaths in riots and clashes between the government loyalists and the opposition. Though these protests were also fuelled by the rising unemployment, corruption, rising crime levels and lack of basic goods.
In the 2015 parliamentary election, the opposition party gained a majority in the National Assembly, the legislative body of government. However, in 2017 the Maduro-aligned Supreme Tribunal of Justice (highest courts in Venezuela) began a constitutional crisis as they began to overturn and throw out the decisions of the opposition-controlled National Assembly and even took over the legislative function of this elected chamber. Though following unrest this decision was reversed and instead Maduro created a new Constitutional National Assembly to begin to rewrite the constitution and to take over all functions of the National Assembly, as this new Maduro-backing legislative body was elected in August 2017.
Maduro called a snap election in May 2018 receiving a 60.8% vote share, along with a record low voter turn out to an election which the primary opposition party boycotted. This gave Maduro a second-six year term in office, though due to the irregularity with the election being called at short notice this both key opponents Falcon and Bertucci to reject the results. The USA, EU and Australia among others rejected these results even though the offer of UN election monitors was made by Maduro to ensure the elections were fair and these were unilaterally rejected by both the opposition and the USA. While the results of the democratic process were accepted by China, Iran, DPRK, Syria, Russia, Turkey and Cuba among others.
Maduro was inaugurated to his second term on the 10th January 2019 which is when the recent events began, with the USA immediately stating that they do not recognise the results of the election and instead recognised the speaker of the National Assembly, Guaido, as the rightful president following his declaration that he was the interim president on the 23/1. Guaido claims that as the election was rigged it is therefore void and such the presidency was vacant with Maduro acting as an usurper. The recognition of Guaido by Trump, was met by international backlash citing that this was an attempt to oust the democratically elected Maduro, while Maduro himself expelled US diplomats from the country. With international support on both sides (with many south American and European states aligning with the USA and many Asian and Middle-Eastern states in opposition) the country finds itself at an impasse, one which is seemingly dependent on who controls the military. Presently, Maduro commands the loyalty of the armed forces due to recent pay rises and promotions for “loyalty” and so is immune to an internal coup further than Guaido’s rhetoric though this situation, like Venezuela’s economy, is highly volatile and could change at any time.

Questions to Ponder: 
1. What economic options does Venezuela have to recover from their crises?
2. Is Venezuela in need of new leadership? If a change is necessary, what is the best way to achieve it? 
3. Is the structure of the Venezuelan government in need of change? Are there any government policies that need to be removed or adopted?
4. Could Venezuela benefit from international intervention? How should international aid be distributed or regulated?