The economic and political crises in Venezuela has left the once prosperous nation a shell of its former self.
The economy is in shambles due to fiscal mismanagement, over reliance on oil, and massive corruption. Last year, hyper inflation reached 80,000 percent.
Politically, the country is, for all intents and purposes, a dictatorship. Whereas Hugo Chávez was always able to make the case that he had a popular mandate from the voters, his successor, Nicolás Maduro, has functionally ended democracy by packing the Supreme Court in 2015, creating a new legislature in 2017, and concentrating power in the executive.
Pompeo mentioned that President Donald Trump had recently spoken with Juan Guaidó, the leader of the National Assembly who the US recognizes as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela, and said, “The quest for freedom is on.”
“The Venezuelan people have made very, very clear that their constitution demands that Maduro not be the president of [Venezuela], and the United States is prepared to support the Venezuelan people to achieve the freedom, democracy – you talked about it,” said Pompeo. “This is a once wealthy nation with enormous natural resources, and yet we have a humanitarian crisis, we’ve had 3 million refugees leave Venezuela. This is a catastrophe, a man-made catastrophe by the Maduro regime, and we’re intent upon helping the Venezuelan people correct it.”
The Trump administration has been turning up the pressure on Maduro and increasing its support for Guaidó.
On January 25, Pompeo gave Guaidó authority to “receive and control certain property in accounts of the Government of Venezuela or Central Bank of Venezuela held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other U.S. insured banks,” according to a press statement.
The State Department claimed that their actions “will help Venezuela’s legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people” and called on other countries to take similar measures in support of Guaidó.