Juan Guaidó, president of the Venezuelan Parliament, greets a crowd in Caracas as he announces he has assumed executive powers.
Since independence from Gran Colombia in 1829, Venezuela has suffered from a long history of political and economic instability. Up until 1945, the country had been led by a military dictatorship until it was overthrown in a coup d’état and replaced with a civilian government. In 1973, there was a large oil boom which lead to Venezuela's currency peaks against the U.S dollar. Around the same time, oil and steel industries were nationalized. In 1989, economic depression leads to riots and martial law was implemented. An attempted coup d’état in 1992 under the supervision of an army colonel lead to the deaths of 120 people. In 1993, President Perez was impeached on corruption charges.
In 1998, Hugo Chavez was elected president. Following his election, Chavez launched the Bolivarian Revolution which included a new constitution, socialist and populist economic and social policies and an anti-US foreign policy. Chavez used the enabling act which passed laws that worried business and labour circles. This was clearly the concentration of economic and political power. In 2002, military forces rebelled and took Huge Chavez into custody. However, Chavez returned to power after the interim government of Pedro Carmona collapsed. In March of 2005, Chavez’s government passed regulations for news media that included harsh fines and prison time for slandering certain public figures. In 2010, Chavez devalued the bolivar currency in order to boost revenue from oil exports after Venezuela’s economy decreased by 5.8% in 2009.
After over a decade as president, Hugo Chavez died at the age of 58 in early 2013. Nicolas Maduro was then elected by a narrow margin. The following year, 28 people die during the suppression of anti-government protests. In September of 2016, hundreds of thousands of citizens took part in a protest calling for the impeachment of Nicolas Maduro, the main argument being he was responsible for the economic crisis. In May of 2018, the opposition party contested the victory of Maduro in the presidential elections. In late summer of 2018, the UN reported that two million Venezuelans had fled since 2014. At the beginning of 2019, Juan Guaido declared himself the interim president, on the grounds that the 2018 election was rigged. The European Union, the United States, and most Latin American countries have recognized Juan Guaido's regime.
While there have been critics of foreign powers intervening in Venezuela’s business, such as Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who steered clear of calling Maduro a dictator on CNN, there has been large support for helping the struggling nation. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that “The United States must respect legitimate democratic processes, and support the right of the people of Venezuela to protest and defend their human rights.” President Trump has also issued a statement saying “You will find no safe harbour, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything” during a speech at Florida International University. The president has also tried to appeal to the Venezuelan military but so far they have mostly stayed loyal to Maduro’s regime. Up to this point, the situation is in a stalemate with Donald Trump seeking possible military intervention and Russian troops now being stationed in Venezuela. We will have to wait and see how the situation unfolds.