Venezuela has been going through a twenty year long political and economic rough patch. Beginning with Hugo Chavez in 1998 and now with Nicolas Maduro, almost five million people have had to leave the country in hopes of a better future, my family and I being part of that number (BBC News). Nicholas Maduro became president in April 2013 after Hugo Chavez died of cancer. He won by a slim margin, 1.6%, and during his first term was blamed for the fall of the economy in the country (McCoy). After Venezuela’s second presidential election post Chavez’s death, Maduro was reelected.
These elections were very controversial since that the majority of the population was highly against them. The country hosted a referendum preceding the election in 2017 in response to the plans announced by Maduro for a new Constitutional Assembly (El Nacional). The overwhelming majority of the people who participated in this process, including citizens of Venezuela all over the world who otherwise may not have voted in a national election because of leaving the country and renouncing their citizenship, voted in favor of not forming a new Constitutional Assembly, defending the country’s original constitution, and holding “free and fair elections” to “restore constitutional order” (El Nacional). Unsurprisingly, Maduro went ahead with the elections that the country did not support, and was reelected for another six-year term.
Before his reelection, and against the will of the people, Maduro formed what is now called the National Constituent Assembly, to take the place of the original National Assembly, in which the opposition had won the majority of the seats in previous elections (McCarthy). Two weeks after announcing his victory in the general elections that were not supported by the people, Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition ran National Assembly, declared himself acting president until the country could host another round of elections that were free and fair. This act was revered by many politicians around the world as antidemocratic, but Guaido’s actions were clearly justified in articles of the Venezuelan constitution (BBC News). Guaido tried many times to gain the support of the military and try to get international support in hopes of Maduro resigning, but the military remains very closely aligned with Maduro’s regime and the lack of international intervention also weakened his case.
Less than two weeks ago, on March 26th 2020, the United States indicted Maduro on narcoterrorism charges, and offered a $15 million reward for his capture. Maduro wasn’t the only politician hit with this charge. Many of Maduro’s inner circle, including Diosdado Cabello and Colombian guerrilla members, were also indicted and placed with a bounty for their capture. The charges include a detailed conspiracy in which Maduro was acting as the frontman working with guerrilla members to make Venezuela the transshipment point for moving large amounts of cocaine to the U.S (Faiola et al). The Washington Post describes this indictment as a “dramatic escalation in the U.S campaign to force the authoritarian socialist from power,” and also highlights the significance of this event given that Maduro is still recognized by Russia and China as the country’s rightful leader. To read the full story and watch a video of the indictment, click this link.
The question now is, does this bounty serve any purpose is bringing back democracy to a country that has been robbed of it? There have been many peaceful protests and movements against the current government by Venezuela’s population that more often than not end up with large amounts of people injured or killed at the hands of the government; so, peaceful methods are not the answer. Constitutionally, Juan Guaido had the authority to declare himself interim president and invoke general elections, but the military did not support him enough and he did not gain as much international support as was necessary, and even gained a lot of criticism by US politicians, to be credible enough for his plan to work. Therefore, I believe that this mobilization by the U.S to indict Maduro and his inner circle of politicians involved in drug trafficking and violations of human rights is the only way to get Venezuela out of the situation it has been facing for over 20 years. I am 22 years old, and have not been in my country since leaving it in 2000. I have seen family suffer, people I know get injured in protests, and many spirits crushed time and time again after every try to gain freedom ends in Maduro and his regime gaining support from socialist countries and politicians. In order to get Maduro out, the military have to give him up to U.S authorities and support the opposition; and if anything is going to motivate military members to overthrow their only source of income, food, and other basic necessities, it is money from the United States.
“Conozca los detalles del proceso de plebiscito del 16 de julio”. El Nacional. Retrieved 07 April 2020
Corrales, Javier. “Venezuela’s government wants to write a new constitution. That way lies autocracy.”
“En la consulta popular de este domingo participaron 7.535.259 venezolanos”. Democratic Unity Roundtable (in Spanish). 17 July 2017. Archived from the original on 18 July 2017. Retrieved 07 April 2020
Faiola, Anthony, et al. “U.S. Indicts Venezuela’s Maduro on Narcoterrorism Charges, Offers $15 Million Reward for His Capture.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 26 Mar. 2020.
McCarthy, Michael. “6 things you need to know about Venezuela’s political and economic crisis.”
McCoy, Jennifer L. “Venezuela’s controversial new Constituent Assembly, explained.”
Web, El Nacional (6 July 2017). “MUD anunció las tres preguntas para el plebiscito popular”. El Nacional (in Spanish). Retrieved 07 April 2020