Analysis & Opinions - METRO U.N.

Venezuela: Consequences

| Feb. 20, 2019

For years outside observers of Venezuela have followed the disastrous developments in the country under the leadership of Chavez and his successor Maduro with growing concern: the steep decline of the economy, growing violence and repression of human rights, the catastrophic living conditions of people without food or health care and the flight of 3 million Venezuelans into neighboring countries. The geopolitical implications of a growing influence of and indebtedness to China and Russia in addition to Cuba’s role in upholding the repressive regime created additional worries to Western governments. But reluctance to violate the principle of non-interference – always a particularly sensitive issue in Latin America – allowed the Venezuelan situation to deteriorate uninhibited over a long period.

This changed with the fraudulent re-election of Maduro and the appearance of the National Assembly’s Chair Juan Guaidó who declared himself Interim President and appears to unite a previously divided opposition. Now the question whether regime change should be supported from outside has arisen with great urgency. While a broad coalition of governments has answered that question positively in principle and surprisingly fast, it is less clear how such a support should be implemented.

Western democracies, led by the United States, quickly recognized the legitimacy of the Interim President as did the “Lima Group” of American countries which had, after all, been created to support Venezuelan democracy. The European Parliament declared its support for Guaidó, as did a number of EU countries individually including the larger ones Britain, France, Germany and Spain. Given the precariousness of the situation, the possibility of the Venezuelan military or the Cuban, possibly even Russian, actors intervening against the new opposition, time is of the essence. It is therefore vital that free, transparent and credible presidential elections be held as soon as possible, since they offer the chance of peaceful reconciliation among hostile groups, would help to give some of the former supporters of Maduro the chance to come back into the fold of a democratic process and would take away incentives to those who mistakenly think that a military intervention from outside is a viable option.

In this context the European Parliament and the EU Council have proposed an approach which could be helpful, namely to create and join a contact group of countries of the region and other key actors which would assist Venezuela to mediate internally and to conduct free elections.

But Guaidó and his democratic revolution can only succeed if they produce rapid improvements in the situation of people, notably by overcoming the food shortage, providing health care, restarting the economy and ending inflation. The US move to block the proceeds from oil sales to Maduro’s allies and to redirect them to Guaidó’s forces is helpful. But what is most necessary is immediate and massive supply of humanitarian aid from Western democracies to give the process of peaceful change a chance to unfold. It would be a mistake to make such aid contingent on prior success of the democratic forces. They need help now.

Simultaneously the more time consuming process of devising a program of aiding the economy must be engendered, possibly with the help of the contact group. Venezuela is deeply indebted, apparently around $ 135 bn. last year and almost half of its (massively reduced) oil production is used to serve its Chinese and Russian debt. Rescheduling the debt with the help of the IMF should create the precondition for new credits to get the economy going again, based on a program that would return the country to a free market economy and create incentives for domestic and foreign investors.

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For Academic Citation: Kaiser, Karl.“Venezuela: Consequences.” METRO U.N., February 20, 2019.

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