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crisis in venezuela
February 18, 2019

While speaking in Miami on Monday, President Trump said the Venezuelan military "must not" follow President Nicolas Maduro's orders to block humanitarian aid from coming into the country, and they are "risking their future" by supporting him.

Venezuela is dealing with hyperinflation, and many people aren't getting enough food, medicine, and other basic necessities. Trump said the U.S. delivered aid two days ago, but it's stuck in Colombia because "Maduro has blocked this life-saving aid from entering the country. He would rather see his people starve than give them aid. Maduro is not a Venezuelan patriot, he is a Cuban puppet."

Trump wants the military to start backing opposition leader Juan Guaido, who says that last year's election was a sham and he is the interim president. "We seek a peaceful transition of power, but all options are open," Trump said. Catherine Garcia

February 12, 2019

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido announced Monday evening that despite a military blockade, he was able to get some humanitarian aid into the country.

People in Venezuela are experiencing food shortages and going without medicine and basic necessities, but President Nicolas Maduro ordered the military to put barricades up on the bridge linking Venezuela to Colombia in order to keep humanitarian aid out; he said Venezuelans aren't "beggars," and this is an attempt to undermine his presidency. For several days, the United States and other countries have been sending aid to the border town of Cucuta, Colombia.

Guaido says that last year's presidential election was a sham, and he is the legitimate leader; the United States and dozens of other countries recognize Guaido as Venezuela's president. He didn't reveal how he was able to get the aid, which included nutritional supplements, or where it came from, but did say Maduro was committing a "crime against humanity" by not letting letting aid across the border. Catherine Garcia

February 6, 2019

Venezuelan troops have set up barricades on a bridge by the country's western border with Colombia, in an attempt to block humanitarian aid.

The aid is on its way from Colombia, with a convoy headed for the Tienditas International Bridge, which connects the two countries. There are tankers and containers now blocking the bridge, so traffic can't get through. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó said this is a "test" for the military, with troops having to decide if they will let the aid through or follow orders to keep it out.

In late January, Guaidó swore himself in as president, saying that because last year's election was a sham, Nicolas Maduro wasn't the actual winner. The United States and several other countries recognize Guaidó as president, and have donated millions in aid. Because of hyperinflation, people are going without food, medicine, and basic necessities, but Maduro has said Venezuelans aren't "beggars," and refuses to let humanitarian aid into the country. Catherine Garcia

February 4, 2019

On Monday, several European nations, including Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, and Sweden, recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country's legitimate interim president, withdrawing support from President Nicolas Maduro. The U.S. and most South American nations recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's interim leader after he swore himself in as president on Jan. 23. European Union nations had given Maduro a deadline of Sunday to call new elections. Because he didn't, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted, Britain has thrown its recognition to Guaidó "until credible elections can be held. Let's hope this takes us closer to ending humanitarian crisis."

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was the first European leader to announce the shift in policy, telling reporters that "we are working for the return of full democracy in Venezuela: human rights, elections, and no more political prisoners." Because of Spain's strong economic and cultural ties to Venezuela, Sanchez's decision was seen as an especially hard blow to Maduro.

In an interview with Spanish TV station Antena 3 broadcast Sunday, Maduro rejected the EU deadline. "We don't accept ultimatums from anyone," he said. "I refuse to call for elections now — there will be elections in 2024." Maduro suggested the power struggle could end in civil war, depending on "the level of madness and aggressiveness of the northern empire [the U.S.] and its Western allies."

Later on Monday, the Lima Group — Canada and 13 Latin American nations — is meeting to discuss how to increase pressure on Maduro to hold new elections and how to aid the people of Venezuela. Most members of the group favor pressuring Maduro to quit and hand power to Guaidó, but Mexico opposes any measures to force Maduro out. Russia, China, and Turkey also back Maduro. "The most important issue now is to get Europe in line and to deepen the isolation of Venezuela and its backers," a Colombian government official told Reuters on Sunday. Peter Weber

January 31, 2019

In a New York Times op-ed published late Wednesday, Venezuelan opposition leader and U.S.-backed interim president Juan Guaidó made his case that he, rather than President Nicolas Maduro, is the constitutionally legitimate leader of Venezuela. The opposition's plan to manage Maduro's "exit with the minimum of bloodshed," he wrote, is to shore up the opposition-led National Assembly, "consolidate the support of the international community," form "a transitional government," and hold "free elections." Guaidó added:

The transition will require support from key military contingents. We have had clandestine meetings with members of the armed forces and the security forces. We have offered amnesty to all those who are found not guilty of crimes against humanity. The military's withdrawal of support from Mr. Maduro is crucial to enabling a change in government, and the majority of those in service agree that the country's recent travails are untenable. [Juan Guaidó, The New York Times]

Guaidó "did not say who in the military he had been speaking with or what their positions were," BBC News reports. "Venezuela's top military representative to the U.S., Col. José Luis Silva, has defected — but senior military figures in Venezuela have supported Mr. Maduro," and many of them hold influential posts in his government. So far, the U.S. and more than 20 other nations have recognized Guaidó as interim president and the European Union says it will do so if Maduro doesn't announce new elections by Sunday, while Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey are among the countries that back Maduro.

Maduro told Russia's RIA news agency that he is prepared to hold talks with the opposition "for the good of Venezuela," but Guaidó writes in the Times that while "Maduro and his henchmen disingenuously propose 'dialogue'" when repression fails, "we have become immune to such manipulation. There are no more stunts left for them to pull." Read the entire op-ed at The New York Times. Peter Weber

January 29, 2019

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced new sanctions Monday on Venezuela's state oil company, and National Security Adviser John Bolton was also at the briefing to warn that "all options are on the table" if President Nicolas Maduro does not step down in favor of the U.S.-recognized interim president, Juan Guaidó, the 35-year-old leader of the opposition-led National Assembly. A note scrawled on Bolton's a yellow legal pad raised eyebrows: "5,000 troops to Colombia."

The White House did not exactly discourage the idea of the U.S. sending troops to South America, reiterating that "all options are on the table." Pentagon officials told The Washington Post that the Defense Department hasn't received any such orders.

It's possible Bolton accidentally disclosed sensitive military plans, and it may be he was sending a not-so-secret message to Maduro. Also, it "could mean nothing," national security analyst Ankit Panda quipped. The hawkish "Bolton might just doodle 'x troops to y country' daily as a daydreaming exercise."

On Monday night, Bolton tweeted an implicit response to the photo of his note pad, writing that the Trump administration will continue to "ensure that interim President Guaido and the Venezuelan people have the resources and support they need to bring democracy back to Venezuela." Bolton said at Monday's briefing that any action by Maduro against Guaidó, U.S. diplomats, or the National Assembly would be considered a "grave assault" met by "a significant response," and so far, The Associated Press notes, Maduro has let Guaidó run free.

"They won't dare touch Guaidó," Human Rights Watch's Jose Miguel Vivanco tells AP. "There's a new dynamic at play. Even while Maduro's government continues to brutally repress the poor and invisible, they won't harm Guaidó because he has so much international support." Peter Weber

May 20, 2018

Venezuela's electoral council declared President Nicolas Maduro the winner Sunday night of a presidential election boycotted by many opponents and marred by claims of irregularities. With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Maduro had 68 percent of the vote versus 21 percent for the main opposition candidate allowed to run, Henri Falcon. Turnout was just over 46 percent, despite extended polling hours, electoral authorities said; The Associated Press estimated that about 40 percent of voters participated, while the opposition put the figure at closer to 30 percent. The U.S. said earlier Sunday that it won't accept the results of the election.

Falcon, a former governor who defected from Maduro's Socialist Party in 2010, blamed the opposition boycott for his low numbers but also rejected the results, saying Maduro's victory "without any doubt lacks legitimacy and we categorically refuse to recognize this process." He specifically pointed to the 13,000 pro-government "red spots" set up near voting stations where poor Venezuelans were encouraged to scan their "fatherland cards" — which entitle them to government benefits — for a chance to to win a "prize." A third candidate, evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci, also slammed voting irregularities and, like Falcon and the opposition coalition, urged a new election.

Maduro declared victory, embarking on a second six-year term. Oil-rich Venezuela is five years into a brutal recession with annual inflation of 19,000 percent and rampant shortages of food and medicine. Maduro has stacked the Supreme Court and replaced the opposition-controlled National Assembly with a second legislature made up of supporters. That National Constituent Assembly had pushed up the presidential election, originally scheduled for December. The two most popular opposition candidates were barred from running and other potential candidates fled Venezuela. Peter Weber

December 26, 2017

Venezuela's currency, the bolivar, has been subject to hyperinflation for months, with shopkeepers reportedly weighing bundles of near-worthless bills rather than counting them. The bolivar's value changes so often now, Reuters reports, that Venezuelans increasingly refuse to accept their own country's money in a desperate bid to retain real purchasing power.

In place of the bolivar, the dollar is demanded. "I can't think in bolivars anymore, because you have to give a different price every hour," a jeweler named Yoselin Aguirre told Reuters. "To survive, you have to dollarize," he added, which is why his prices are now tied to the dollar.

Currency exchange limits, low wages, a devastated economy, and an artificial exchange rate set by the socialist Maduro government make dollars hard to come by for most Venezuelans. The official exchange rate is 10 bolivars to one dollar, but on the black market it's more like 110,000 to one. So useless are the low-denomination bolivar bills that Reuters describes them being used as Christmas decorations in a "grim festive joke" for a holiday this year marked by deadly hunger.

For more, read The Week's Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on Venezuela's socialist hell. Bonnie Kristian

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