Venezuelan opposition weakens as Biden prepares to take office

Venezuelan opposition weakens as Biden prepares to take office

When the Venezuelan regime takes over the presidency of the National Assembly on Tuesday, it will place US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó in its most dangerous position since he became leader of the movement to topple authoritarian President Nicolas Maduro two years ago.

As for the current government, Mr. Guaidó will not be the president of Congress in Venezuela now that Maduro’s aides are about to take an oath. To lead the 277-member National Assembly. Mr Guaidó’s position as president of the association gave grounds for the United States and more than 50 countries to recognize Mr Maduro as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

Maduro has said publicly that his government is prepared to engage with the United States, despite previous efforts to broker a dialogue have failed.

Juan Guaidó is increasingly isolated, with many in the opposition leadership outside of Venezuela.


Photo:

Manor Quintero / Reuters

An official in the president-elect

Joe BidenThe transition team said it had no plans to negotiate with Mr Maduro, adding that it had no contacts with the Venezuelan regime.

“President-elect Biden has been clear throughout the election campaign and during the transitional period that he believes Maduro is a dictator and that the Biden administration will stand with the Venezuelan people and call for the restoration of democracy through free and fair elections,” the official said.

The official added that the United States will seek to restore multilateral pressure on Mr. Maduro, call for the release of political prisoners, implement sanctions against Venezuelan officials accused of corruption and human rights violations, and grant temporary protection status to Venezuelans living in us.

As Mr Maduro tightens his grip on Congress, the country’s opposition will soon take another blow. Some of the remaining opposition MPs close to Mr. Guaidó are planning to flee the country, fearing imprisonment if they stay in Venezuela, according to opposition activists. With no powers or control over territory, what Mr. Guaidó and his team call the interim government is now more than just a virtual entity, making pro-democracy statements via social media and Zoom. The Trump administration has said it still considers Mr. Guaidó the only democratically elected leader in Venezuela.

With so many in the opposition leadership now outside Venezuela, Mr. Guaidó has become increasingly isolated, living in a small apartment in Caracas with his wife and young daughter and wondering if the secret police will arrest him.

As Mr. Biden prepares for the inauguration as President of the United States on January 20, Venezuelan opposition leaders have said they are moving away from strategies to stimulate a revolution to force Mr. Maduro to step down from power. Instead, they said they would lean more towards it Finding a way to alleviate food and drug shortages In a country facing an economic calamity. A third of Venezuelans cannot have access to three meals a day, according to the United Nations World Food Program. Up to half suffer daily blackouts as they struggle to cope with nearly 12,000% annual inflation, according to Caracas-based business consulting firm Ecoanalítica.

Since the United States first recognized Mr. Guaidó As Venezuela’s interim president in January 2019, Washington imposed oil and financial sanctions and mobilized international support for a movement to topple Mr Maduro. This effort failed.

Now many opposition activists, as well as former advisers to President Trump, say the changes are necessary.

“The whole scheme of the Guaidó caravan is over his life,” said Juan Cruz, who was a former White House adviser on Venezuelan policy. He said that the United States needs to reconsider its broad sanctions, which have targeted government companies and individuals accused of corruption and human rights violations.

“January marks a new day for a lot of players: the opposition, the US administration, even the regime,” said Mr. Cruz.

In a recent video address on Twitter, Mr. Guaidó sought to instill confidence in his movement by asserting that it is united and will lead the country towards free elections. “The dictatorship will not leave voluntarily, which is why we need to make them leave,” he said.

His supporters have called for protests in the streets on Tuesday as Maduro’s allies take their seats in the National Assembly. He also urged the Venezuelan envoys working in other countries to put pressure on the host countries to increase the pressure on Mr. Maduro.

But he suggested a few other things. In Venezuela, economic meltdown and incarceration have left most Venezuelans preoccupied with obtaining scarce running water and fuel rather than contemplating protests.

“I’ve lost the ability to mobilize people,” said Luis Vicente Leon, a political analyst who runs the polling firm Datanálisis in Caracas. “Today, there is no one pressing Maduro inside Venezuela – no political negotiations, no participation in elections or protests. The result is the complete crushing of the opponent.”

In a recent poll, Datanálisis found that only 25% of respondents said they hoped for a democratic transition in the country. Ecoanalítica estimates that the economy shrank by 23% in 2020 after shrinking 40% a year ago.

Despair in the country is expected to increase the influx of desperate Venezuelans, which now stands at five million. The Organization of American States estimates that the number of Venezuelan immigrants could swell to seven million by the end of 2021, more than the number of Syrians who fled the brutal war in that country.

The political confrontation makes the search for solutions to the humanitarian crisis difficult. Opposition lawmakers allied with Mr. Guaidó recently approved a resolution on a videoconference at Zoom calling on them to continue in office after Tuesday, when the five-year term of Congress expired. They argued that Maduro’s legislative elections last month were illegal, as did the United States and many other countries.

Maduro said in a recent speech that he would crack down on any lawmaker trying to extend his mandate. The left-wing leader shouted in the televised speech, which was surrounded by the military high command, “I will not be afraid to act aggressively to enforce the law.”

And ruling party members will occupy their seats this week in the 277-member National Assembly.


Photo:

Carlos Becera / Bloomberg News

But Mr. Guaidó also faces divisions within his movement. Democratic Action, one of the main political parties in the opposition coalition, abstained from voting to keep Mr. Guaidó as president of the association. Some lawmakers said they had lost confidence in his team.

Oscar Rondiros, a lawmaker for democratic action, described the current opposition movement as “a temporary government that does not exist, in a National Assembly that does not serve anyone.”

“It is illogical to continue” the movement led by Guaidó after January 5, he said.

According to opposition lawmakers, the movement’s internal discord could further damage its credibility, especially among the European Union countries, which are calling for negotiations with the regime to allow humanitarian aid and then agree on free elections.


“Today, no one is pressing Maduro inside Venezuela – no political negotiations, no participation in elections or protests.”


– Luis Vicente Leon, political analyst

In recent weeks, the Maduro regime has demonstrated its crackdown by arbitrarily detaining directors of organizations serving food to poor Venezuelans, and sentencing six former Citgo executives to long prison terms. The US government said that the executives – five of them US citizens – are being held unfairly.

“Instead of building trust, it is eroding” Mr Cruz said of negotiation hopes.

Julio Borges, who works from his exile in Colombia as the Guaido Movement’s top diplomat, said he expects the United States and its allies will not tolerate Maduro.

“The most important thing in the democratic struggle in Venezuela is that Maduro is still unable to stabilize the country or increase his popularity,” said Mr. Borges.

Write to Kejal Vyas at kejal.vyas@wsj.com

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