Venezuela

Venezuelan Crisis Boils Over as Opposition Leader Declares Himself President

Juan Guaidó declared himself to be the interim president. President Trump and other world leaders have acknowledged him as the country's new head of state.

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Cristian Hernandez/EFE/Newscom

When Nicolás Maduro was sworn in for his second term as Venezuela's president earlier this month, the ceremony took place at the country's Supreme Court—rather than, as is typical, in front of the National Assembly.

The change in venue was not merely an aesthetic choice.

Five days earlier, when the Assembly opened its new session, opposition leader Juan Guaidó stood in front of his colleagues and accused Maduro of being a "dictator" and "usurper" who had used a fraudulent election to claim another six-year term as the nation's chief executive.

In the days since Maduro's January 10 inauguration, things have moved quickly. The United States, Canada, and 17 Latin American countries signed a declaration refusing to recognize the legitimacy of Maduro's government. Some have cut off diplomatic ties with Venezuela. Those official actions have bolstered unofficial efforts to oppose Maduro in the streets of Caracas and other cities, where people impoverished by the Venezuelan regime's socialist policies have clashed with the military, which (along with the courts) remains loyal to Maduro.

In the midst of huge protests Wednesday that marked the anniversary of the 1958 uprising that toppled a military dictatorship, Guaidó declared himself to be the interim president of Venezuela—a bold move that was quickly endorsed by President Donald Trump and other world leaders.

"The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law," the White House said Wednesday in a brief statement. An op-ed from Vice President Mike Pence ran Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal, promising American support for the protestors—though, notably, Pence stopped short of saying exactly what form that support would take—and in a video message from the White House, Pence called Maduro a "dictator with no legitimate claim to power" and encouraged Venezuelans to support Guaidó.

Clearly, a new phase in the long simmering Venezuelan crisis is beginning. Whether Maduro can cling to power likely depends on whether he can use the country's military to crush the current uprising—similar to what happened in 2017 when an anti-Maduro uprising was violently suppressed. Hopefully, the military will abandon Maduro. If it does not, the country may tip towards civil war.

Make no mistake: Maduro is a monster, and Venezuelans are right to want to remove him from power. He sought to continue the socialist policies of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, and has now brought those ideas to their inevitable conclusion. Chavez nationalized the Venezuelan oil companies and used the profits to fund a massive welfare state, but production declined (Venezuelan "peak oil" occurred in 1998, the year Chavez was elected) in the absence of competition and foreign investment. When oil revenues fell, threatening all aspects of the state-run economy, Chavez (who died in 2013) and Maduro printed money. When that didn't work, they instituted price controls. When inflation resulted, they closed off Venezuela to imported goods. Before long, what had once been the richest country in Latin America was reduced to a place where toilet paper is considered a luxury. An estimated 3 million Venezuelans have fled the country, turning the nation's collapse into a regional humanitarian crisis.

If today's events are indeed a turning point for Venezuela, then the United States' role in the coming weeks and months is to continue doing what Trump and Pence did today. America should stand up for the right of Venezuelans to determine the direction of their country. But ultimately it must be Venezuelans who decide what happens next.

In that regard, the Trump administration's response to the latest round of anti-Maduro uprisings has been admirable in its restraint. After all, it was Trump who suggested, in August 2017, that American military intervention could be used to "topple" the Maduro regime. In September 2018, White House officials met with Venezuelan ex-patriots to discuss the possibility of a U.S.-backed coup to overthrow Maduro.

Ironically, both incidents served to only tighten Maduro's grip on power, as he was able to point to U.S. machinations as the source of Venezuelans' problems and distract, at least temporarily, from his role in the country's misery. An American-backed military coup in the style of the ones that toppled governments elsewhere in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s would likely trigger endless internal conflict in Venezuela—and foment distrust towards whomever eventually replaces Maduro.

Open war would, of course, be even worse.

"There is no increase in the threat to U.S. security, which would be necessary to justify military action," Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, told Reason on Wednesday.

Even as the humanitarian crisis deepens and Maduro's repressive political dictatorship becomes more obvious, Bandow says, American leaders should resist the urge to engage in a Latin American version of the nation-building failures of the past two decades. Instead, America should play a supportive role and allow Venezuela's neighbors to handle the political, economic, and humanitarian problems.

That restraint will be tested if Maduro responds to Guaidó by unleashing the military against protesters—something that is already happening, according to some reports—or by arresting opposition leaders. Guaidó was arrested and held for two days by government intelligence forces last week. If something like that happens again, it would be easy for the Trump administration to use today's declaration that Guaidó is the legitimate leader of the country as the basis for direct action against the pro-Maduro military. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has already made that threat explicit.

It should not have to come to that. Venezuela is a resource rich country with the potential to pull itself out of a decade-plus tailspin if the socialist thinking of the Maduro regime is finally excised.

The United States also has an opportunity to show that it has learned a lesson from the decade-plus quagmire in the Middle East. Namely, that regime change is never as neat and tidy as it might appear at the outset, and that nation-building is best done by the people who will have to live there when the job is finished.

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  1. Death to tyrants.

    1. You are not being fair to socialists.

      1. That moment when you realize your government is morally right but not factually right.

        1. Who knew that moral systems sat on a foundation of lies.

    2. Be better to socialists. Listen to the old man in jacket

      1. The Jacket with an old man inside him.

    3. Death to tyrants.

      That slogan comes to mind every time Pres. Trump gently caresses Mr. Putin’s nutsack after another bizarre poisoning, death in prison, invasion, etc.

      1. Arty, you don’t do those sort of comments very well. You have not talent for it. Which is to be expected, as you have an intellect less impressive than that of a small dog.

        1. Hey, my small dog resents that comparison…

    4. Every one of those communists should be out to death. Then we should follow that example here.

    5. Sean Penn needs to go down there and smooth things over.

  2. Like that bastard Kim, so long as the military backs Maduro, he’s not likely to leave. And the Venezuelans have been disarmed for a couple of years.

    1. Maduro is such a retard it appears that he has run out of money to pay the military and police. There are reports of the police and military shooting live bullets into the crowds down there. That is not a sign of strength. It is a sign of desparation. My guess is that the miltary and the police are going to realize that they are on the losing side and walk away fairly soon. The rest of the world recognizing Guiardo as President is likely the doom of Maduro. All it takes is for a few people in the military and police forces to walk away and a it starts a preference cascade and it is all over for Maduro.

      1. Maybe he’ll get his Mussolini moment.

        1. We can certainly hope. Sometimes justice is served. Not often but sometimes it is.

        2. love a good lampposting.

        3. I’d pay a hundred bucks to see that on pay-per-view.

          -jcr

        4. I bet Bolsonaro would be happy to give Maduro a helicopter ride out of the country.

      2. The War Nerd was an overwrought drama queen at times, but one thing he did get right was when he pointed out that Chavez’ military purchases were of the type ideal for domestic suppression, not international wars. Chavez was well aware of what could happen to him as a socialist dictator, especially in Latin America, and prepared accordingly.

        It’s unfortunate that this is all happening under Maduro and not Chavez, as it would be quite deserving.

        1. It is still plenty deserving. And Chavez dies a pretty horrible death of cancer. Not what he desered but still not pleasent. They have been disarming the public and arming the military and police forces to murder the public for a very long time. It is the only thing that has kept them in power this long. It appears that they have finally stolen so much money that they can’t even afford to pay their hired killers anymore. If that happens, they are as good as dead assuming they can’t get Cuba to take them in.

    2. Apparently the National Guard, which backs Guaido has already today tangled with the military, which backs Maduro,

  3. There is a Brazilian blogger that goes by Lex Costa who is all over this on Twitter and is retweeting a whole lot of really interesting videos of the protests going on right now. She is worth following. She is also utterly adorable. And a pretty girl makes anything better.

    1. >>>And a pretty girl makes anything better.

      of all the times i’ve agreed with you this is the most.

      1. Maybe it is just me but look her up. I think she is gorgeous.

        1. did that. word. cute dog too but i love all the dogs so i’m biased.

          1. I do too. I even like little rat dogs. No dog is ever that bad.

            1. Dogs are delicious, some say. I’ve never tried one but don’t fault people who eat them.

              1. Of course you don’t. You’re the kind of shitbag that strangles kittens for.fun. You and Hank Phillips probably get together to jack each other off while you watch footage partial birth abortions.

                I see no reason to keep,you around once you progtards are dealt with. None whatsoever.

          2. Her blog is called Your Brazilian Cousin. Incest never was so tempting. We should all have a Brazilian cousin like her. And she is pretty sharp too. I enjoy her writing a lot.

            1. I had a classmate in high school whose divorced father married the mother of another classmate that he was already dating. For about a month he enjoyed the convenience of having access to her al ost 24 hours a day. Then he got sick of (she was hot, but a loon) and she drove him nuts after he dumped her.

              1. Cool story

  4. “If today’s events are indeed a turning point for Venezuela, then the United States’ role in the coming weeks and months is to continue doing what Trump and Pence did today.”

    Oh no! Have the Russians gotten to Eric Boehm, too?

    “Chavez nationalized the Venezuelan oil companies and used the profits to fund a massive welfare state . . . . When oil revenues fell, threatening all aspects of the state-run economy, Chavez (who died in 2013) and Maduro printed money. When that didn’t work, they instituted price controls. When inflation resulted, they closed off Venezuela to imported goods. Before long, what had once been the richest country in Latin America was reduced to a place where toilet paper is considered a luxury.

    That wouldn’t happen if the same program were implemented here in the United States because Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cares about people.

    1. Occasional Cortex means well Ken. She is morally right. Don’t bother her with all that facts and logic stuff. Morals uber alles!!

    2. And we could just import more illegal, poor, low skilled immigrants who don’t know the language – automatic booming economy!

      1. Offer socialism to the world!! What could possibly go wrong?

      2. It’s not their fault we won’t learn their language(s) when they move here.

    3. Actually Chavez did not nationalize PDVSA which was already nationalized. He did however fire the board of directors and replaced them with his cronies.

  5. At least Maduro has Mexico’s backing

    1. “At least Maduro has Mexico’s backing.”

      Cuba’s too, so long as he can pay them.

      1. Turkey, Russia, Bolivia, PLO, Cuba, Mexico

        A who’s who of shady countries.

        Build The Wall.

        1. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, as well as the US and Canada recognize Guaido as the interim president.

      2. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Trump strong arm Mexico into distancing themselves from Maduro. And as for Cuba. How much is their support worth in any tangible sense?

        1. When the task at hand is killing your own people, Cuba’s help counts for quite a bit

    2. Argentina recognized Guaido’s legitimacy before Trump did.

  6. Now that we are a net oil producer, we don’t need to be “liberating” any oil producing countries.

    Right?

    1. No we don’t. On the other hand, there still is that whole sphere of influence thing and the fact that this greassy bastard is in bed with the Iranians and has turned the Venezuluan government into an organized crime family. If the US went down and shot the worthless son of a bitch, it would not be the worst thing it is has ever done.

      1. Someone is probably going to shoot him. I can almost guarantee that they have a couple of governments to go over the next decade or two until they come back into the fold. I would honestly prefer the US not be the trigger man that then gets the blame for what comes next. The people need to put Maduro down themselves, if only so that they can own the responsibility for fixing things.

        1. No one is going to shoot him, but he may have an unfortunate fatal accident.

        2. The problem is, poor countries have no problem blaming richer countries for their problems. You can bet your life that Maduro will find a way to blame America for the state of the country.

      2. No, it needs to be a Venezuelan pulling the trigger. If they do it, it’s removal of a dictator. If we do, it will be war.

        They still have enough of a political infrastructure that our military intervention will only harm, not help.

    2. Let’s hope the Venezuelans liberate themselves. Soon.

  7. “Before long, what had once been the richest country in Latin America was reduced to a place where toilet paper is considered a luxury.”

    Meanwhile, I picked up a new motorcycle today. I didn’t buy it because I need one. I just did it because I want one.

    God bless capitalist America.

    P.S. SV650. Blue and White. Best time of year to buy one. 2018s still on the lot. No more Christmas buyers. 2019s coming in. Got $2,000 off. Fuck you, Karl Marx!

    1. My wife wants me to buy a Ural. She loves the sidecar. It would be fun but I don’t know what I would do with it other than take a trip or two with it every year.

      1. There is a motorcycle rental company:

        https://www.eaglerider.com/ural

        Don’t know it’s quality. But that might be easier, and you’ll get the maintenance and stuff taken care of. Particularly if it really is a once a year deal.

        1. Thanks. I really want to rent one this summer. I have never owned a bike with a sidecar. I would like to see how I and my wife really like it before buying one. I will totally check that out.

          1. They’re tippier than you think when you turn the opposite way of the sidecar; start slow. But they’re still fun as all get out to drive. Just start out going slower than you think you should. It’s not your FZ1 or CBR1000 – or even a Harley.

      2. If your wife wants it, that’s reason enough. How many guys have a wife that wants them to buy something like that? Most married guys are lucky if they get to keep it in the garage and just look at it every once in a while.

        Do you have a big dog? Dogs love side cars. It’s even better than sticking their noses out the window of your car.

        1. I do have a big dog. And I would love to get him some doggles and take him out in a sidecar. It is too bad I am not single. A big, cute dog in a side car would be a chick magnet if there ever was one.

  8. President Trump and other world leaders have acknowledged him as the country’s new head of state.

    Trump has also moved Jerusalem to Venezuela.

    1. If Trump somehow helps bring about the end of the Maduro regime, my God will the left hate him then.

      1. The left would put him on a million dollar a year speaking tour like the other murderers they support.

  9. Remember when Venezuela recognized Hillary Clinton as the rightful president of the US after the 2016 election? Neither do I

    1. If Trump were a socialist dictator who stole the election and there were tens of thousands of people in the streets being fired upon by the army, I would hope they would have.

      1. “stole the election”

        Muh, Russia? That’s the wacky totally not insane, but definitely insane, position held by the same respectable people who totes believe Maduro stole the election.

        The US recognizing the opposition as the legitimate head of state does nothing. I have no love for Maduro. I hope he gets lynched. But, it’s not our job to lynch him.

        1. Just because some elections are not stolen doesn’t mean no elections are stolen. The fact that some lunatic somewhere is always going to claim that the election is stolen doesn’t mean that some elections are not actually stolen and the US government is right to recognize that. Deciding if the election in Venezuala is stolen or is not requires some effort and thought. So what? Sometimes life is like that.

          1. Imagine how Tony must feel. He knows it won’t be long before Maduro gets the guillotine.

            1. Somewhere on the North Shore of Boston Joe from Lowell is crying tears of rightous anger right now. Joe was a true believer in Chavez. He must be devistated over this. isn’t that a pleasent thought?

    2. I bet Hillary was hoping for such thing.

      Steele testified in a UK court that the purpose of the dossier was so Hillary could contest the election results.

      What good did Hillary think contesting the results would do? Also, I bet when the question of will you accept the election results at the debate was done after Hillary had a plan to contest the election.

      1. Article

        Court_Doc

        Look at the response to #4 on page two

  10. President Trump and other world leaders have acknowledged him as the country’s new head of state.

    John Oliver is gonna be pissed off.

  11. It looks like Guaid? is also a Socialist – appears unlikely that things get any better any time soon.

    1. Guaido’s socialism will work.

      1. Maduro wasn’t a True Socialist.

  12. Any word from AOC on this?

    1. “Doesnt matter. We all die in 12 years.” – aoc

  13. Don’t these foolish Venezuelans they might reverse all the gains the socialist government Maduro gave them?
    Don’t they realize that starving is a privilege?
    Don’t they realize making a money to feed your family is an evil enterprise?
    Don’t they realize Maduro and Company imprison people for their own good?
    Don’t they realize terminating all vestiges of free speech is a blessing?
    Haven’t these fools recognize living in abject poverty is the only way to live?
    What’s wrong with these people?
    Are they all mentally ill?

    1. God. Imagine how much diet plans will cost after Maduro is forced put. No more free weight loss programs.

  14. So I hear that Venezuelan bonds are up 25% in recent weeks. Still way too volatile for my tastes, but interesting.

    Public finance aside, I hope that the Venezuelan people can pop Maduro like a zit and claw back as much of what he stole as possible. They’re going to need a shitload of money to remedy the damage that years of incompetence have inflicted on their oil industry.

    -jcr

  15. The United States also has an opportunity to show that it has learned a lesson from the decade-plus quagmire in the Middle East. Namely, that regime change is never as neat and tidy as it might appear at the outset, and that nation-building is best done by the people who will have to live there when the job is finished.

    I’m still waiting for Reason to write weekly posts denouncing America for trying to negotiate an end to the conflict in Israel.

  16. I was expecting the “Don’t go to war with Venezuela, just let their people in” line somewhere in the article. That’s what Reason has become now. Stossel and Sullum are like 50% of the reason why I even bother clicking on this site.

    Just imagine AOC running that country. “By 2030, all fossil fuel in Venezuela will disappear! I saved you from global warming!”

    In Venezuela, she MIGHT win. In her NY district she won in a minor landslide. That’s how morally and intellectually bankrupt the democrat base is. It’s not some fringe that accuses a federal judge of rape and malign a high school kid for “disrespecting” a shyster out of thin air.

    I have no appetite for letting in thousands of outsiders who made poor choices that led to their society’s demise. Most are decent people, but poor choices are poor choices. They’re more than welcome to apply legally. Stop saying things like we’re short on workers somewhere. If we have to, we can invite guest workers and they WILL COME.

  17. Fuck these Venalzuelans. They voted for this crap. How many are blaming Maduro and not the policies? Are they blaming Chavez? They’ll vote the same way when some new loon comes along promising them free shit. And to hell with the right down there, they’re no better. In 1960 Venezuela’s population was 8 million, small enough to have built a decent society like the Swedes, but no, they’re rotten Conquistadors or Commandantes to the core.

    reply to this report spam

    1. Many election monitors dont believe they actually did vote for this crap. At least not last year.

      1. Socialism – You only need to vote for it once.

    2. The elections are what they are decrying as fraudulent. And yes, they decried Chavez. Millions demonstrated. Where the he’ll have you been?

    3. Bullshit they voted for that crap. 80% of the population hates him. The other 20% are his family members and cronies.

      They didn’t vote for him. It’s was a fake election just like the ones before it. They were sick of this crap even when it was still Chavez running things.

      It used to be a wealthy country. People are starving, they can’t buy diapers or even toilet paper without crossing in Columbia. Meanwhile Maduro lies to them and treats them like idiots, just like Chavez did before him.

      1. Chavez was legitimately elected at one point, and they knew what they were voting for back then when they were voting for Chavismo.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chavismo

        No doubt, they’re suffering from buyer’s remorse, which bring back the old question left to us by the Wiemar Republic: Should a democracy be allowed to vote itself out of existence?

        Wasn’t Chavez legitimately reelected after the failed coup? The coup was a reaction to Chavez asserting his authority over the legislature and the judiciary. At some point, the Venezuelan people, hopefully, come to terms with the fact that they’re suffering because they got what they asked for.

        American progressives would rather blame a vicious dictator for Venezuela’s problems. After all, if only someone like Obama or ACO were in power, Venezuela’s socialism would have worked just fine!

        Venezuelan supporters of socialism would rather blame Maduro, as well. If only Chavez had survived, then his socialism would have worked as planned!

        I blame socialism for the flaws of socialism, but I also blame the people who voted for it. Not only was Venezuela’s present situation predictable, it was also predicted. If the Venezuelan people ignored all reason and embraced Chavez, who should we blame if not the Venezuelan people?

        1. This truth is so painful, even our libertarian heroes shy away from speaking it. If the American people won’t accept the truth that we can’t continue spending as we are without suffering the negative consequences, then we can blame the Fed, as Ron Paul did. We can blame Congress, as Rand Paul tends to do. We can blame John Boehner, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, or Donald Trump, but the blame really belongs with the American people. If we keep voting for people who won’t cut spending, it’s our fault.

  18. “American leaders should resist the urge to engage in a Latin American version of the nation-building failures of the past two decades.”

    No nation building, but toppling an enemy dictator in a failed state?

    Maybe.

    I think that Venezuela would likely emerge a freer country than Iraq or Afghanistan, and with a lot less bloodshed. Latin America generally does better than the Middle East.

    I’ll have to go check what Bolsonaro is up to.

    Anticipating all the shrieks of “Intervention!”, trading with a dictatorship is also intervention. Call me when you want to end trade with China.

    1. No nation building, but toppling an enemy dictator in a failed state?

      LIBYA

      LIBYA

      LIBYA

      LIBYA

      No, no toppling dictators in a failed state. When has that ever done anything except open up a power vacuum that let even worse people take control?

    2. And trading with China has done more to mellow out their government than any amount of shooting would have. Or, indeed, refusing to engage with them – look at how North Korea and Cuba have turned out.

  19. We had no problem sending marines to Haiti in 1994 to install Aristide, did we?

  20. I earned $5000 last month by working online just for 5 to 8 hours on my laptop and this was so easy that i myself could not believe before working on this site. If You too want to earn such a big money then come.
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  21. Pence called Maduro a “dictator with no legitimate claim to power”

    Is Pence really deep or really stupid?

    The only ‘legitimate claim to power’ is having power. You don’t ‘have a claim to’ power – you claim it. Or you don’t. If it has to be given to you then its not power, its privilege. The privilege to do a few things in someone else’s name.

    1. Legitimacy is a real thing.

      A rule of thumb measure is the number of police per capita it requires to maintain order. Governments with more police per capita enjoy less legitimacy. The more legitimacy there is, the less police are needed to enforce the authority of the government.

      Kings can be legitimate.

      The accent in Pence’s statement is on “legitimate”, or it should be.

      In the LA riots of ’92 (at least during the initial phase), the police and the criminal justice system completely lost their legitimacy.

      Things are so bad in Venezuela right now, the police can’t maintain control. Crime is completely out of control. Maduro has no legitimacy.

      Macron is facing legitimacy problems associated with the Yellow Jacket movement.

      Many people in Northern Ireland refused to accept the legitimacy of the British government to rule over them.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Legitimacy_(political)

      I have long maintained that legitimacy ultimately derives from ability of government to protect people’s rights. The fundamental problem of the Iraqi government after 2003 was establishing its legitimacy.

  22. Why would anyone ever want to be president of a country like Venezuela.
    It’s not exactly much of an aspiration and leads you to be the most hated person in the country.
    Better to get the hell out and make a life elsewhere, or move to an obscure part of the country and become a farmer.

    1. I’d sell off all admin and govt infrastructure to the highest bidding MLB franchises and let baseball run things. Venezuela is good at baseball.

  23. We are heading towards the next economic collapse.

  24. Of course half the country sees no difference between Maduro’s actions and Trump’s.

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  26. Where are Sean Penn and Michael Moore to go to Venezuela to see how things are going down there?

  27. We need to mind our own business, but that won’t happen until the knee-breakers for the military industrial complex get neutered with extreme prejudice and WAR is no longer our biggest profit center.

  28. It would be nice to read an article less peppered with slants, and hyperbolic terminology.

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  30. Pay attention to this government trailer…sooner than you think, it is coming to a country near you. Ask yourself what come after Trump leaves?

  31. Yes, I picked up a new motorcycle today. I didn’t buy it because I need one. I just did it because I want one.

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