VENEZUELAN CRISIS - US AND EU ULIMATUM
Unemployment, hunger, lack of medicines, this is the image of an exhausted population. The crisis that has been gripping Venezuela in recent months, but which has reached dramatic implications in recent weeks, has roots in the deepest fabric of society in what was one of the richest countries in South America.
Torn by a famine that is literally killing thousands of people, Venezuela is a country divided in two, and that we could summarize with this phrase "blood flows above, oil under ".
The images that are being shown these days around the world tell of street and guerrilla fights along the main streets of the capital, of supermarkets with desperately empty shelves, where everything is lacking, starting from basic foodstuffs, even toilet paper; where in hospitals it is no longer possible to treat patients because even basic medicines are lacking, and the mortality rate is fearsomelyincreasing. Alarming data have estimated that the population has lost an average of 11 kg per person due to malnutrition, child mortality has increased by 10%, and that an estimated 250.000/300 thousand people seriously risk their lives.
The large oil-related market.
The greatest wealth of the country is located right in the depths of the earth. Alongside the Orinoco River, there is the largest oil reserve of the world. Approximately 1300 billion barrels, which correspond to almost all the oil reserves of the globe. Venezuelan oil is tempting for many, from Russia to the United States, passing through China, which are facing a global dollar-and-yen-based trade clash. Despite these immense riches, the country is going through the biggest crisis of the history of this century.
A slow migratory wave
Significant signs of the crisis had already occurred since last summer, when Peru imposed the passport obligation on the numerous migrants arriving from Caracas. A phenomenon that has never been seen before, never happened in Latin America. Not with such intensity, and in such a short time frame. Not even in the convulsive twentieth century, bloodied by civil wars, with dictatorships and revolutions. For this reason, the World Organization of Migration has compared it "to the crisis in the Mediterranean". In less than four years, at least 2.3 million people - seven inhabitants out of a hundred - have left the nation. The first to leave were entrepreneurs and professionals, who saw their ease threatened by the "Bolivarian revolution". Poors followed, then migrants from the "ranchos", the Venezuelan version of the shantytowns, where insecurity and scarcity make life impossible, even to those accustomed to scarcity.
How did the country arrive at that point?
The situation of the country has degenerated in recent months, where economic maneuvers have had no effect, but especially after years of blind populist government, which over the years has slowly but incessantly brought the country to the edge, depriving it on one side from, while corruption and misgovernment have reduced the population to starvation.
The daughter of the former mayor of Caracas, Vanessa Lezedma, who currently lives in Italy, has given an interviewto Italian press. Her words sound alarming:"the average population lives on a salary of five euros, which is only enough for a day. In the country it is practically impossible to leave from houses, people do not eat and 90% of the citizens have nothing left. Bread and milk are rationed, and the population undergoes daily endless queues just to find some basic food. Public education does not work, and even health system, if you get sick you have to pay, and in that caseyou have to choose whether to pay for medicines or eat ".
The day that changed the history of the country
An oceanic crowd gathered on January 23 to hear the oath of the young and charismatic 35-year-old Juan Gerardo Guaido', President of the National Assembly and at the head of the opposition, when, from Plaza Venezuela, he shouted "si, se puede", translation of Obama's yes we can. He proclaimed himself Presidentad interim and swore on the Constitution, openly challenging President Maduro, who won the last elections. Heinvoked a constitutional amendment allowing the head of the legislature to lead a provisional government until new elections, urging Maduro to call new elections "within eight days", whereas he is only willing to "negotiate". He also immediately called for international aid for his country in order to cope with the first necessities, and announcing a mobilization to ask the Venezuelan Armed Forces to allow humanitarian aid to enter the country. In a message on Twitter, the leader put the next three steps in black over white to "tackle the crisis, restore democracy and achieve freedom".
He also announced his intention to take control of Venezuela's assets abroad. A similar announcement came in the evening from the US: Washington imposed sanctions on the state oil company PDVSA and invited the Venezuelan army to accept a peaceful transfer of power to Guaidò. The newly elected President also made a plea to the EU: "The support of the international community is very important, because it is a question of re-establishing the most basic respect for human rights: the European Union, especially with Italy,which has played a very important role in the history of Venezuela, is a bulwark of these principles.We need their support ". The new President, in a masterly move, promised amnesty to the military who will line up against the regime to help restore democracy. It is not easy, given the level of corruption, as well as the very high salaries being benefitted by the loyal generals of the former President, which have granted him the highest loyalty so far.
Very few minutes later comes from Washington the expected official recognition of the new President. "Nicolas Maduro and his regime are illegitimate", says US President, "and the people of Venezuela have made their voice heard with courage, asking for freedom and respect for the law". The American President has always considered Maduro a dictator, while the President of the National Assembly, self-proclaimed leader, is the only legitimately elected figure after the disputed political elections in the country. The first leader to follow the US President in following his example was Canada, followed largely by major Latin American countries, with Brazil atop the list, and with Colombia, Argentina, and Chile. Mexico, Uruguay and Boliviaexpressed their denial, instead.
The position of the EU
The EU Parliament has "deposed" Nicolas Maduro and has recognized Juan Guaidò as Venezuela's legitimate ad interim president. With 439 yes, 104 no and 88 abstentions, the deputies of Brussels gave power, on January 31, to a non-binding resolution, full of political significance,reaffirming their full support to the National Assembly, the only legitimate democratic organ of Venezuela, whose powers must be from now completely restored and respected, including the prerogatives and security of its members.
Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom are the first to stand in favor, followed by Portugal and the Netherlands, while three days prior to the expiry of the ultimatum given to Maduro, the Greek government has expressed its dissent regarding the common position of the blockade. Minister for European Affairs GiorgosKatrougalos said that Athens does not want "another Libya" in South America. Italy is currently the only country to block the EU recognition ofGuaidò, despite the plea the new President has addressed to the country. This decision is highlyirritating the many Italian citizens who live in the Latin country, about 150 thousand, and the community of Italian immigrants (now naturalized)is the largest in the country. They are "enraged" with the Italian government for not taking a clear stance towards President Maduro.
China, Russia, Turkey, North Korea, Cuba, Syria and Iran have instead lined up alongside Maduro, in power since 2013, when he succeeded Hugo Chavez, after he took office on 11 January for his second term. Strong stance by Russia attacking: "There is a coup attempt against President Nicolas Maduro".
The unknown factor of the "socialist dictator"
The president-dictator, defined by many parties as a modern tyrant, now on the verge of political failure, never ceases to incite his supporters and threaten those who disagree with him. In recent days, however, more and more people have begun to take courage and to parade through the streets of the capital, tired and exhausted by years of deprivation. Fighting policemen patrol the streets to avoid clashes between Maduro’s supporters and protesters. Day after day the population that used to support the deposed president decreases, windsare finally changing, and they have become aware that a sharp and radical change is coming. Even the Armed Forces, always very loyal to Maduro, are abandoning the powerless ex-leader andtake sideswith the population.
According to some, China and Russia will raise their voices, but they will not want to come to a definitive rupture with the EU and the United States to defend Maduro, while local NGOs have updated to 40 dead and 850 arrests the budget of a week of protests, and Pope Francesco has launched a plea against "bloodshed".
Meanwhile, at the midnight of February 3, the EU ultimatum to hold new presidential elections has expired. Excited moments happened late in the evening, when Maduro said he was ready to convene new parliamentary elections, but he responded negatively to the request for new presidential elections. The Minister for European Affairs Natalie Loiseau has defined the granting of new political elections as "a farce", and is therefore ready to officially recognize Guaidò as the legitimate President ad interim up to the vote, and entitled him to organize them.
Maduro, now aware that his days as a dictator are running out, does not exclude, as a last act, the possibility of a civil war; in his own words “it depends on the level of insanity of the northern empire and its allies," he said shortly before the expiry of the ultimatum to a Spanish TV, referring to the United States, and adding that "I do not accept ultimatum from anyone".
At this point the possibility that the United States may consider the use of force cannot be ruled out. The American President has not denied but said: "It's an option".
The world observes the situation with bated breath, and calls for apeaceful resolution to be found soon, for a new Venezuela, free, and finally ready to start a new chapter in its history.