Venezuela’s cri­sis hits stand-still over emer­gency aid

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! -

CU­CUTA, Colom­bia — Nearly three weeks af­ter the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion backed an all-out ef­fort to force out Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro, the em­bat­tled so­cial­ist leader is hold­ing strong and de­fy­ing pre­dic­tions of an im­mi­nent demise.

Dozens of na­tions have rec­og­nized op­po­si­tion leader Juan Guaido’s claim to the pres­i­dency and the U.S. has tight­ened sanc­tions aimed at cut­ting off bil­lions of dol­lars in oil rev­enue. But anti-Maduro street protests have come and gone, and large-scale mil­i­tary de­fec­tions have failed to ma­te­ri­al­ize.

With the U.S. seen as con­sid­er­ing mil­i­tary ac­tion only as a last resort, Guaido is try­ing to re­gain mo­men­tum with an ef­fort this week to move U.S. emer­gency food and medicine into Venezuela de­spite Maduro’s pledge to block it.

Such an op­er­a­tion could pro­voke a dan­ger­ous con­fronta­tion at the bor­der — or fiz­zle out and leave Maduro even stronger.

With so much at stake, Guaido is un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure to soon un­seat Maduro, an­a­lysts say.

“He is run­ning against the clock,” said Daniel Lans­berg-Rodriguez, a Venezuela ex­pert at North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity’s Kel­logg School of Man­age­ment. “Ex­pec­ta­tions are run­ning very high — not just among Venezue­lans but in­ter­na­tional al­lies — that this is a cri­sis that can be re­solved quickly.”

De­spite hav­ing the world’s largest oil re­serves, Venezuela is suf­fer­ing soar­ing lev­els of mal­nu­tri­tion, dis­ease and vi­o­lence af­ter 20 years of so­cial­ist rule launched by the late Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez. Crit­ics ac­cuse Maduro, a for­mer bus driver and Chavez’s hand-picked suc­ces­sor, of un­fairly winning an elec­tion last year for a sec­ond six-year term by ban­ning his pop­u­lar ri­vals from run­ning and jail­ing oth­ers.

The 35-year-old Guaido was a vir­tu­ally un­known law­maker un­til last month, when he took the helm of the op­po­si­tion-con­trolled Na­tional Assem­bly. He has ral­lied masses of Venezue­lans into street demon­stra­tions that have left at least 40 dead since he de­clared him­self in­terim pres­i­dent on Jan. 23.

Guaido has so far avoided ar­rest, but the gen­eral comp­trol­ler an­nounced Mon­day it was open­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Guaido’s as­sets in a new es­ca­la­tion of the con­fronta­tion be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the Na­tional Assem­bly.

Guaido has won back­ing from nearly 50 coun­tries world­wide, in­clud­ing the United States, which has pledged an ini­tial $20 mil­lion in sup­port and has al­ready shipped emer­gency food and medicine to the Colom­bian bor­der city of Cu­cuta, where it sits in a ware­house.

Maduro has re­fused all eco­nomic as­sis­tance, deny­ing there is an eco­nomic cri­sis in Venezuela — and con­tend­ing the aid is part of a coup be­ing or­ches­trated by the White House to top­ple him.

Maduro has made a show of over­see­ing mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions played on state TV al­most daily. He’s jogged with troops in for­ma­tion, mounted an am­phibi­ous tank and railed against what he says is an im­pend­ing U.S. in­va­sion that he has likened to a Latin Amer­i­can Viet­nam.

On Mon­day, Venezuela so­cial­ist party chief, Dios­dado Ca­bello, spoke at a rally in Venezuela’s bor­der city of Urena, across from Cu­cuta, crowd­ing the streets with Maduro loy­al­ists wear­ing the red shirts of the so­cial­ist party and wav­ing flags.

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