Trump Administration Announces Support For Guaido As Violence Erupts in Caracas

Juan Guaido called for massive protests on Tuesday against the regime of President Nicolas Maduro. The situation has turned violent in places. According to Reuters, dozens of armed troops loyal to Guaido clashed with regime soldiers and a pro-regime National Guard vehicle ran into opposition protesters.

Guaido is the leader of the National Assembly and recognized as the interim president of Venezuela by the United States, the European Union, and most Latin American countries.

The United States government is standing firmly behind Guaido.

“I am monitoring the situation in Venezuela very closely,” President Donald Trump tweeted. ” The United States stands with the People of Venezuela and their Freedom!”

“We are with you!” tweeted Vice President Mike Pence. “America will stand with you until freedom & democracy are restored.”

“Today interim President Juan Guaido announced start of Operación Libertad,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted. “The U.S. Government fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy. Democracy cannot be defeated.”

Yesterday, Pompeo would not comment on how long he believed Maduro would stay in power in a conversation with the editor-in-chief of The Hill.

National Security Adviser John Bolton used the platform to warn several high ranking officials in the Venezuelan government to abandon Maduro or “go down with the ship.”

A spokesperson for the Treasury Department released the following statement on the current situation in Venezuela:

“The United States stands with the Venezuelan people and interim President Juan Guaido in opposition to the illegitimate Maduro regime.  The path to sanctions relief for individuals and entities aligned with the former Maduro regime, including institutions such as PdVSA, is to change behavior by supporting Venezuela’s democratically elected leader and those who seek to restore democracy.  The United States and our partners and allies stand ready to leverage the tools of the international financial community to help swiftly restart Venezuela’s economy.  This Administration will continue to hold accountable those who stand in the way of restoring democracy to Venezuela.”

The United States was the first country to recognize Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela more than three months ago. The current situation is the most serious threat to the Maduro regime since anti-government protests in 2017.

Guaidó Returns To Venezuela Ahead Of Protests

Juan Guaidó landed at the Caracas airport Monday morning ahead of planned opposition protests in the capital and throughout Venezuela.

In a tweet, Guaidó said he was able to get through immigration, apparently avoiding confrontation with government officials.

The opposition leader was greeted at the airport by a crowd of supporters. According to CNN, thousands of supporters gathered in Plaza Alfredo Sadel waiting for Guaidó.

Yesterday, Guaidó warned that there would be consequences if government officials attempted to arrest him.

“If the usurper and his accomplices dare to try to hold me, we have left a clear route, with clear instructions to follow by our international allies and brothers of Parliament,” tweeted Guaidó on Sunday.

United States National Security Director, John Bolton, tweeted out support for Guaidó and reiterated the US’s support.

“Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido has announced his planned return to Venezuela,” tweeted Bolton. “Any threats or acts against his safe return will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community.”

Guaidó is the leader of the democratically elected National Assembly. More than 50 countries recognized him as the interim president of Venezuela after Nicolás Maduro refused to hold new presidential elections.

Pompeo: US Will Attempt to Deliver Aid to Venezuela This Weekend

The confrontation between the two proclaimed presidents of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó, may come to a head this weekend over the issue of humanitarian aid that sits just across the border from the economically devastated socialist country.

Juan Guaidó and 80 other lawmakers are making their way towards the Colombian border where tons of aid from the United States sits waiting to enter Venezuela. According to Reuters, Guaidó plans to bring the stockpiled humanitarian aid into the country on Saturday.

The Brazilian government also said it would allow Guaidó’s supporters to bring aid into Venezuela by truck.

According to Reuters, Maduro ordered the border with Brazil to be closed tonight and is threating to close the borders with Colombia. He has called the stockpiling of humanitarian aid across the border a “provocation”.

The United States, which started delivering aid to the border city of Cúcuta, Colombia, on February 16, is not backing away from its support for Guaidó. In an interview with Craig Melvin of NBC Today Show, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked about the situation in Venezuela:

QUESTION: Let’s talk about Venezuela. Of course, this weekend the deadline – we’re trying to get aid into this country. President Maduro has said that he is going to close the borders. He believes that it’s a pretext for a U.S. invasion. First of all, what is our national interest in Venezuela? And secondly, what do we expect to happen this weekend?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So this weekend we will attempt to deliver what are now hundreds of tons of humanitarian assistance that the American people, our taxpayers, have generously paid for, now have moved into the region. We hope we can get it across the border. There have been 3 million refugees have to leave the country. The humanitarian crisis is enormous. That’s always an American interest to try and make sure that we feed those that the – in this case the government causes. This is a wholly man-made catastrophe in Venezuela.

We have security interests too. This is in our region. We don’t want this to be a Cuban puppet state in Venezuela. So there are many American interests, and President Trump is determined to protect the American people and to provide humanitarian assistance in this true crisis.

Analysis

Venezuela is in dire economic straits. The country has been in an economic depression since 2014 with the gross domestic product contracting by a staggering 16.5% in 2016, 14% in 2017, and 18% in 2018.

The overall gross domestic product of Venezuela is the same as it was in 2004.

For the Venezuelan people, the recent economic catastrophe wiped out all gains made under the late-President Hugo Chávez.

Aid is desperately needed in Venezuela. Since the economic crisis began, the average Venezuelan weighs 11 kilograms less than they did last year, reports Reuters.

The Maduro regime is caught in a trap. It cannot accept aid from the United States, its mortal enemy since the failed coup in 2002. However, it cannot maintain the facade that things are not as bad as they seem.

The showdown this weekend may prove to be a tipping point in the conflict, especially if Maduro attempts to use the military to stop foreign aid from entering the country.

Ultimately, the regime will only fall when the military as a whole refuses to follow Maduro, which may be the scenario that the foreign and domestic opposition is hoping to provoke.

France, Germany, UK, And 15 Other European Countries Recognize Guaidó As Venezuela’s Interim President

Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom now recognize Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela.

The regime of Nicolás Maduro finds itself under increasing pressure from at home and abroad. A top air force general recently defected and thousands are protesting in the streets against the government.

On January 26, United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt issued an ultimatum for Maduro to call for presidential elections within eight days. On February 4, the deadline passed and Hunt followed through on his threat to recognize Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela.

Hunt issued the following statement:

The United Kingdom now recognises Juan Guaido as the constitutional interim President of Venezuela, until credible presidential elections can be held.

The people of Venezuela have suffered enough. It is time for a new start, with free and fair elections in accordance with international democratic standards.

The oppression of the illegitimate, kleptocratic Maduro regime must end. Those who continue to violate the human rights of ordinary Venezuelans under an illegitimate regime will be called to account. The Venezuelan people deserve a better future.

In a press release, a spokesperson for the German Foreign Office expressed regret that Maduro had not heeded the European Union‘s call to hold new presidential elections. The spokesperson also expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in Venezuela saying,

We remain concerned about the people in Venezuela who are suffering as a result of severe shortages, including in the healthcare sector. Like the EU, we have therefore reiterated our call for international humanitarian assistance to have unhindered access, without success so far. Germany has allocated funding of five million euros for humanitarian assistance in Venezuela which can be provided as soon as the political conditions in the country permit this.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement:

I regret that President Maduro has not accepted the EU’s call to hold free and fair presidential elections. For Germany, Juan Guaidó is the Interim President in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution in order to organise free, fair and democratic presidential elections.

We remain concerned about the people in Venezuela who are suffering as a result of severe shortages, including in the healthcare sector. Germany will provide funding of five million euros for humanitarian assistance in Venezuela as soon as the political conditions in the country allow this.

The United States State Department praised the decision to recognize
Guaidó. The US was one of the first countries to extend recognition to
Guaidó as the interim head of state of Venezuela.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued the following statement:

We welcome the decision today by Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom to recognize Juan Guaido as the Interim President of Venezuela. We are also heartened by the European Parliament’s January 31 resolution recognizing Juan Guaido as Interim President. They join the United States and more than 23 other countries in recognizing Juan Guaido as Interim President, in accordance with Venezuela’s constitution.

We encourage all countries, including other EU member states, to support the Venezuelan people by recognizing Interim President Guaido and supporting the National Assembly’s efforts to return constitutional democracy to Venezuela. We repeat our call to the Venezuelan military and security forces to support their country’s constitution and protect all Venezuelan citizens, including Interim President Guaido and his family, as well as U.S. and other foreign citizens in Venezuela.

Maduro finds himself under increasing pressure at home and abroad to hold new presidential elections as more and more countries refuse to recognize the legitimacy of his government. However, he has refused to budge on the issue.

Top Venezuela Air Force General Defects, Backs Guaidó

In a widely circulated video, a high ranking military official said he publicly recognized Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, as the legitimate president of Venezuela.

According to Reuters, General Francisco Yánez is a member of the Venezuelan air force high command.

Yanez used the video to call on other members of the military to defect. He added that the vast majority of the military is against Nicolás Maduro.

Yanez is the first active general to recognize Guaidó as the interim head-of-state.

Guaidó joined the call for more military leaders to defect from the Maduro government, according to the Associated Press.

“We don’t just want you to stop shooting at protesters,” said Guaidó. “We want you to be part of the reconstruction of Venezuela.”

Control of the military is crucial to the Maduro regime’s survival.

Over the years, Maduro has ceded power to the military in order to maintain its loyalty to his regime. In late-2017, Maduro appointed General Manuel Quevedo to lead the Oil Ministry and the state-owned oil company PDVSA.

At the moment, Yanez’s defection is an anomaly. If the military as an institution also joins the opposition and turns its back on the current regime, then there is no path for Maduro to stay in power.

Pompeo On Venezuela: “The Quest For Freedom Is On.”

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.

In an interview last Wednesday on Fox News, Sean Hannity asked United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about his position on Venezuela and the current turmoil.

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.