Corruption and Inflation: The Presidential Conflict in Venezuela

On May 20, 2018, Nicolás Maduro was re-elected to be the Venezuelan President. However, due to the lack of perceived legitimacy, Juan Guaidó also claimed legitimacy and declared himself president. Since that date, the Venezuelan government has been in a state of confusion for nine months. As the time has progressed, the living conditions for Venezuelans has gotten worse.  

Nicolás Maduro first gained presidential power in 2013. He ran against Henrique Capriles Radonski and won by a slim margin. Maduro got 50.6% of the votes while Randonski got 49.1%. The results were so close that Randonski called for a recount, but ultimately Maduro won. Maduro’s campaign was based in the continuation of Hugo Chávez, which is a socialist and left leaning philosophy, which particularly resonated with the poorer population. Relations with the United States were already strained during the Chávez administration due to the conflict between capitalism and socialism. Maduro’s election did not improve US relations because of the continued socialist ideology.

Once Maduro gained power in 2013, he inherited an economy that was on the verge of collapse from Chavez. When Chavez was president he consolidated the government by getting rid of jobs and removed the upper legislative house to benefit himself. Additionally, there was a strike from the workers of an oil company, who Chavez then fired, leaving the oil industry destroyed. The next year, Maduro was sworn into office and in order to fix the economy, he printed more money, which led to the inflation that is still seen today. The inflation rate is at 10 million percent, according to a 2018 IMF report.

Guiadó is currently the head of the National Assembly. He started his political journey in 2011 when he was elected to the National Assembly. He is a member of the National Will political party, which was created in 2009. The National Will has a central leaning, meaning they support a market economy, which is in direct contrast to Maduro’s platform.

Both Maduro and Guaidó have claims to the legitimacy of the presidency. Maduro’s claim to legitimacy is that he won the 2018 election by the number of votes. Guiadó is using Article 233 and 333 to support his legitimacy. Article 233 states that the head of the National Assembly is to take over the position of president if the president becomes unavailable. Since Maduro won with a corrupt election, Guaidó uses that as a reason Maduro cannot hold the position. Article 333 states that the Venezuelan Constitution still holds power, even if it is not being observed. Because Maduro is illegitimately claiming the presidency, the Constitution still holds the power, which means Guaidó is president, even if Maduro fails to recognize that.

Within Venezuela, there is support for both Maduro and Guaidó. Maduro still holds on to the support of the poor population because of his socialist platform. Guaidó holds power with those who do not believe Maduro won legitimately. Both have their own reasons for legitimacy. Guiadó’s claims rest in Maduro’s illegitimacy, which is making it difficult for him to win over supporters. In order to gain supporters, he must advocate for his own legitimacy and the policies he will be implementing. At the end of the day, whoever has the most support from the country will become the official president.

There is also an international divide on who is the legitimate president. States such as the United States, Canada, and most of South America recognize Guiadó as the legitimate president. However, states like Russia and China recognize Maduro as the legitimate president. The countries of Europe are not recognizing either person, but rather are calling for more discussions.

Currently, the Venezuelan military supports Maduro. This is causing even more tension with the United States because of Maduro’s socialist leanings, which are in direct contrast with the policies of President Trump. Once Guiadó claimed his legitimacy to the presidency, many military figures announced publicly that they will continue to support Maduro. The support of the military is extremely important because whoever holds the support of the military essentially holds the country. There are a few doubts that Maduro will hold the support of the entire military because whoever holds the military, holds the power.

At the civilian level, there is a huge humanitarian crisis going on in Venezuela. Due to the extreme inflation rates, citizens are not able to buy even the most basic necessities. To fight back against Guiadó, Maduro has cut of aid from countries such as the United States and Canada through a bridge barricade. In order to escape, many Venezuelans are fleeing the country.  

Ultimately, Venezuela is in the midst of an economic, political, and social crisis. In order to stabilize the country, it is important that the citizens have access to their basic necessesities and the government can agree on what steps need to be taken to help improve the country. That certainly won’t happen until the country unites behind a single president.

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