The election victory in Venezuela of Nicolás Madur sparked controversy around the world, with countless countries and candidates decrying the voting irregularities that plagued the election in May.
Madur was sworn into office on January 10 despite several countries, like the US and Britain, officially recognizing the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president, who had declared himself interim president following massive protests. US president Trump said in a tweet supporting Guaidó “Spoke today with Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido to congratulate him on his historic assumption of the presidency and reinforced strong United States support for Venezuela’s fight to regain its democracy. Large protests all across Venezuela today against Maduro. The fight for freedom has begun!”
These protests drew crowds of thousands against Madur, leaving 40 dead and 850 detained by Jan. 23, when Guaidó declared himself president. In response to efforts by Guaidó to assert himself as president, the Madur government along with the country’s Supreme Court, has barred Guaidó from leaving the country and frozen his assets. The US national security adviser John Bolton has stated that if any harm is done against Guaidó there “will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido.”
Applying financial pressure to Madur’s government, the US instituted sanctions against the state owned Petroleos de Venezuela, and invited other countries to join in the economic pressure. The sanctions impact $7 billion worth of assets held by the oil company and have been put into effect “immediately” according to US treasury secretary Steven Mnunchin. The secretary also said “PdVSA has long been a vehicle for embezzlement, for corruption for Venezuelan officials and businessmen. Today’s designation of PdVSA will help prevent further diversion of Venezuela’s assets by Maduro, and will preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela where they belong.”
There are several countries across the world, like China and Russia, who have pledged their support for Madur, with Russia condemning the sanctions the US placed on PDVSA. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the sanctions are “illegal” and represent an “undisguised interference in its (Venezuela’s) internal affairs.”
The key factor to indicate whether the opposition to Madur will succeed or not depends on which side the military intends to back, and for now it seems to be favoring Madur. Last week, two dozen officers attacked a National Guard outpost in the Caracas neighborhood of Cotiza, stole weapons and kidnapped four officials. The rebels were later arrested following a clash with security forces and protesters.