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Diplomatic relations sour after US, Canada announce support of self-appointed, interim Venezuelan president

in Latin America/World Affairs by

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro kicks out US diplomats in light of US Administration’s suggestive language to have him ousted.

Two weeks shy of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s second term, US President Donald Trump released a statement recognizing rising oppositional leader, Juan Guaidó, as acting head-of-state in the oil-rich, but politically and economically troubled South American country.

On January 23, 2019, Guaidó swore himself in at a demonstration in Caracas. Held in the country’s capital, the protest was part of nationwide marches against Maduro’s presidency.

Before Guaidó’s ad hoc inauguration, the 35-year-old, George Washington University graduate denounced the legitimacy of Maduro’s May 2018 presidential win. As a recourse, he said that he would serve as interim president until the country is able to hold fair elections.

In a White House statement, Trump identified Guaidó “as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people … the … people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”

Canada followed suit shortly thereafter, along with eleven members within the 14-member Lima Group, a regional bloc of Latin American countries working to deal with the crisis in Venezuela.

Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru issued a joint statement calling for quick and fair elections, while Mexico, a Lima Group member, took the position of non-intervention. The NY Times reported an anonymous source disclosing that Canada will host the bloc to discuss Venezuela’s growing dilemma.

US Vice-President Michael Pence celebrated the suggested-coup by exclaiming, “Freedom broke out,” in a Fox news interview covering the country’s rallies. He continued, “We will stand with the people of Venezuela until they reclaim freedom and democracy.”

On the other hand, China, Turkey and Russia disapprove of the Trump Administration’s actions. On Friday, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin took the position that “any outside intervention in the internal political situation in that country is impermissible.”

Al Jazeera news reported Turkey’s president, Recip Tayyip Erdogan telling Maduro in a telephone call, “My brother Maduro. Stay strong, we are by your side.”

In response to Trump’s announcement, Maduro kicked out all US diplomats, giving them 72 hours to leave the country. In a speech, he said [translated] “I have decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist government of the United States.”

As of press time, Trump refuses to remove diplomats.

UN watches from afar

The UN has been following the turmoil in Venezuela for years. In 2018, the agency met with Brazil and Columbia to set up humanitarian aid for the tens of thousands of refugees crossing into the bordering countries.

Since the 2016 plummet of oil prices, hyperinflation plagues Venezuela, leaving millions without food security. Along with the ongoing political turmoil which has opposition parties alleging that the country’s current administration is more of a dictatorship than a democracy, Venezuela sits in a highly unstable climate.

UN officials have not issued a statement regarding US-Venezuela relations; however, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed “[concern] over reports of casualties in the context of demonstrations … and calls for a transparent and independent investigation of these incidents.”

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