Venezuela on the Brink

Last Friday, Venezuelan courts brought an end to the referendum process to oust President Nicolas Maduro. The official reason given was alleged fraud during the first petition stage, despite both the lack of evidence and the fact that the opposition collect upwards of five times the required signatures. The timing is also suspicious, given that it came just days before the next stage of the referendum process was to begin (originally scheduled to start today). Since then, tension in the country has escalated rapidly.

First, the Venezuelan National Assembly (legislature and dominated by the opposition) approved a resolution accusing Maduro of carrying out a coup d’etat against the constitution. Tensions came down a bit when the Vatican intervened to arrange and mediate crisis talks between the two sides. However, a number of opposition leaders have indicated that they will not participate in the talks. Further, while the Vatican has a long history of mediating similar conflicts it also has no ability to force an agreement (unlike say, the US or the UN, which can apply the threat of sanctions and the use of force). In a further development yesterday, the National Assembly has voted to put Maduro on trial, an action that seems significant were it not for the insistence by the Maduro government that the parliament is illegitimate with the Vice President stating that “legally, the National Assembly does not exist.” The opposition has planned nationwide protests for today, look here for updates later. If the Vatican’s intervention is unsuccessful, these will most definitely not be the last protests in the country. I believe that the country is heading for a possible revolution if Maduro refuses to stand down with new elections held. Stay tuned for updates!

UPDATE: The demonstrations held today across Venezuela do seem to have been massive. Exact figures have not yet been reported, but the Wall Street Journal stated that “The large scale of the protests on Wednesday took many observers by surprise.” Given the state of the country, it was expected that the demonstrations would attract a decent turnout, so for the protests to exceed expectations is truly impressive. CNN has reported that the opposition has “vowed to march on the presidential palace next week.” The scale of the protests, by demonstrating the lack of popular support for Maduro’s government, greatly weakens Maduro’s position in the upcoming Vatican-mediated talks. Maduro still enjoys the support of the military however, and may try to remain in power by force.