President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela scrapped all diplomatic ties with the United States on Wednesday and gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave, ordering them out with a derisive “be gone!” and accusing the Trump administration of plotting to overthrow him.
Mr. Maduro’s actions came as he faced the most direct challenge yet to his hold on power in Venezuela, a once-prosperous country that has been devastated by years of political repression, economic mismanagement and corruption.
Only hours before Mr. Maduro cut diplomatic ties, a Venezuelan opposition leader declared himself the nation’s legitimate president, cheered on by thousands of supporters in the streets and a growing number of governments, including the United States.
The fast-moving developments convulsing Venezuela appeared to give new momentum to the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, a 35-year-old politician who stepped onto the national stage just recently. [Continue reading…]
Despite holding the world’s largest oil reserves, the country that was once one of the wealthiest in Latin America has become a wasteland of poverty, hunger and crime. Inflation is the highest in the world, making salaries worthless. A recent minimum wage increase by Maduro raised it to less than $7 per month. The economy is shrinking, and crime is exploding. Some 3 million Venezuelans have left the country, placing enormous strains on surrounding countries and making Venezuela’s neighbors almost as eager to see the end of the Maduro regime as most Venezuelans.
And yet, two weeks ago Maduro was sworn in to a new six-year term after “winning” fraudulent elections. Democracy in Venezuela has ceased to exist. The courts and most institutions are subservient to the president. [Continue reading…]
Buoyed by a telegenic new congressional chief, Venezuela’s opposition is daring to hope that President Nicolas Maduro’s days in office could be numbered, but the unpopular leader’s bedrock base – the armed forces – shows few signs of erosion.
Opposition sympathizers, rallying around opposition leader Juan Guaido, are holding open air town-hall meetings that buzz with excitement about the legislature’s recent challenges to the legitimacy of Maduro, who this month began a new term widely slammed as illegitimate.
Bolstered by the United States and numerous Latin American neighbors promising to back the opposition in seeking a transition, the Guaido-led congress last week declared Maduro a “usurper” and asked foreign governments to freeze bank accounts controlled by his government.
But with the legislature stripped of its powers by a pro-government Supreme Court and few signs that the military high command is prepared to abandon Maduro, the spring in the opposition’s step and investor exuberance it has sparked may prove premature.
“The military leadership is faithful to Maduro and will continue to be until he’s gone,” said one active duty high-ranking military officer, who asked not to be identified.
An attack on a Caracas military outpost by two dozen low-ranking National Guard officers on Monday morning sparked opposition hopes of an uprising, but the incident was snuffed out quickly. [Continue reading…]