Crisis In Venezuela Deepens

For quite some time now, Venezuela has been wrestling with political unrest, violence, hyper-inflation and shortages of food and medicines. About 3 million people have left the country in the past few years that is one in 12 Venezuelans. Colombia is hosting a million of them. Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile have all allowed Venezuelan refugees thanks to Latin America’s  open door policy on migration. A country which is home to world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela has gone through the boom and bust phase which is a paradox of plenty. Oil accounts for 98 % of country’s export earnings and constitutes 50 % of its GDP. Venezuela’s descent into economic and political chaos is a typical case of the rise and fall of a petro-state. The resource curse has definitely taken a toll on governance.

Venezuela’s political crisis has now entered a critical phase with several world leaders declaring their intent to recognize the opposition leader Juan Gaido’s self-proclaimed government. President Nicolas Maduro faces the sternest test of his presidency. Even former President Hugo Chavez faced American hostility and sanctions, but he was backed by the majority of Venezuelans for his measures to bring about distributive justice and recasting the polity in the new mould.

Beginning with the Bush administration, the US attempted to thwart the Bolivarian revolution. In 2002, a coup nearly succeeded but popular backing reinstated Chavez. Successful US administrations have tried hard to destabilize the Maduro government. Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had raised the feasibility of a military coup. There were also calls to the National Assembly to impeach Maduro and use of force to prevent humanitarian crisis. Such blatant interventions have polarized the country. However, foreign meddling is unacceptable.

The US has a history of meddling in Latin America—from the CIA-backed coup against Jacobo Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954 to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, military intervention in Dominican Republic in 1965 and the 1973 military coup in Chile against the Salvador Allende government.

Venezuelan President Maduro was re-elected for the second time last year in an election boycotted by the opposition. Mr. Maduro is under tremendous pressure after his rival Juan Guaido declared himself acting President last week. Several countries including the US and many Latin American states now back Mr. Guaido as President. European powers too have warned President Maduro that he must call elections or they will officially recognize the  opposition’s claim of leadership. While the European Union’s statement is more cautious, the UK and France have taken a strident stance. Venezuela has rejected the demand to hold fresh elections. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has rejected the pressure tactics. The US has threatened Venezuela, saying ‘all options are on the table’.

Russia has expressed its full support for the Maduro regime. Moscow has taken the line that foreign support for the opposition leader violates international law and is a ‘direct path to bloodshed”. China, Mexico and Turkey have sided with the Maduro regime.

India has taken a principled position stressing its policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of another country. New Delhi has perhaps the best of relations with Venezuela among all the South American countries. India’s Ministry of External Affairs has stated New Delhi believes that it is for the people of Venezuela to find political solution to resolve their differences through constructive dialogue and discussion without resorting to violence”. India is closely following the emerging situation in Venezuela. India believes that “democracy, peace and security in Venezuela are of paramount importance for the progress and prosperity of the people of Venezuela.”

India’s position is in line with its principle of non-alignment and non-interference. India is not in favour of regime change. India has also rejected the West’s call for democracy promotion. It is for the Venezuelan people to resolve the crisis in their best national interest.

Script: Dr. Ash Narain Roy, Director, Institute Of Social Sciences, Delhi