Following the ultimatum issued by European Countries, is recognising Juan Guaidó as the incumbent Venezuelan President really the correct way to go?
Following allegations that the recent Venezuelan presidential elections in which Nicolás Maduro was re-elected for a second term were rigged, Juan Guaidó, the Leader of the Venezuelan national assembly, has declared himself as president while the country looks for a way to move forward from the alleged corrupt election. Guaidó is arguably within his rights to do so, as the leader of the national assembly can declare themselves president if there is no legitimate presidency. Guaidó argues that since the elections are widely alleged to be rigged, the result should not be honoured.
The Maduro administration has denounced Guaidó as a United States sponsored “attempted coup d’état,” with the aim of installing a “puppet government.”
Several regional powers such as Brazil and Argentina, have thrown their weight behind Guaidó, declaring that they recognise him as the incumbent president. Similarly, several European countries (including The United Kingdom, France and Germany) have issued a joint ultimatum requiring that Maduro, the current president of Venezuela, holds legitimate elections within eight days or they will recognise Guaidó as the legitimate president. The United States have now taken matters a step further and imposed new sanctions on Venezuela in an aggressive attempt to force Maduro to concede the presidency to Guaidó.
Meanwhile, other countries such as Russia, China and Turkey have outright rejected Guaidó’s declaration, insisting that they only recognise Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela.
Is recognising Guaidó’s declaration the correct way to go?
Looking at the facts, it is immediately clear that on the road to re-election Maduro has been in breach in swaths of electoral law. Maduro gifted away items bought with state resources whilst campaigning and also directed government officials to bribe hungry Venezuelans with food on the condition that they vote for him in the election.
Even disregarding this, Maduro’s poor track record as president speaks volumes. Over the course of the past year, the Venezuelan Bolivar has devalued 2,400,000% (yes, that is two million, four hundred thousand percent) against the US Dollar, Venezuela is now entering its sixth year of recession and a host of large multinational businesses have left Venezuela as the economic climate is currently untenable.
Emigration from Venezuela between 2012 and 2015 increased by 2,889%, with at least seven percent of the population leaving the country between 2016 and 2018. The situation is so dire that a United Nations Refugee Agency official for Refugees regional representative compared the emigration and refugee crisis to that caused by the Syrian civil war.
The only positive that can be spun out of this presidency is that whilst the murder rate is still the highest in the world (81.4 per 100,000 people), it has dropped from 92 per 100,000 in 2016. The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence partly attributed the drop to outward migration, as murderers, or would be murderers, have emigrated out of the country.
A presidency with a record like this would have been removed from power long ago in any properly functioning democracy and has no business winning re-election campaigns.
Recognising Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela may allow for the country to experience a change of direction and policy – also allowing a legitimate election to be held. In any case, it certainly cannot get any worse than it is now.