Protests Against Maduro Spread
The start of 2019 in Venezuela has thus far been marked by a presidential crisis and related protests and marches against President Nicolás Maduro. On January 10, Maduro was sworn in as president of Venezuela after seemingly illegitimate elections, and constitutionally became the nation’s dictator. The National Assembly’s opposition majority immediately contested the election results and declared Juan Guaidó, president of the National Assembly, as acting president of Venezuela. The New York Times reports that, in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution, Guaidó was sworn in as interim president on January 23 in the presence of thousands of Venezuelans in Caracas.
On January 23, the streets of Venezuela were flooded with men and women of all ages calling for new, fair presidential elections, according to the Washington Post. Around the world, Venezuelans sang Gloria al Bravo Pueblo, the national anthem, and chanted, “Who are we? Venezuela! What do we want? Freedom!”
Due to the economic and social crises currently plaguing Venezuela, more than 3.3 million people have fled the country. The countries that have been affected most by the Venezuelan migrant crisis are Colombia, Brazil, and Peru. Thousands of Venezuelans living in these Latin American countries came together to protest as well. In Bogotá, the capital of Columbia, El Tiempo writes that about 2,000 Venezuelans marched, expressing their support for Guaidó and demanding democratic elections.
The protests have spread to countries beyond Latin America. In the United States, there were protests in cities such as Washington, D.C., Boston, New York City, and Miami. Madrid also saw large protests in support of Guaidó.
Protests in Venezuela are often marked by violence between military forces and protesters, and demonstrators are frequently imprisoned. The New York Times reports that at least 40 protesters have been killed by Maduro’s Special Actions Force (FAES), and, according to the NGO Foro Penal, there are now 988 political prisoners.
On February 2, Venezuelans around the world gathered once again to peacefully protest against Maduro’s dictatorship and ask for democratic elections. This most recent protest is especially notable, as Reuters reports that military officials have started to question the legitimacy and actions of Maduro.
According to Reuters, one of the first military officials to do so was General Francisco Yanez, a member of the Venezuelan Air Force’s high command. In a video Yanez posted on February 2, he claimed that an estimated 90 percent of the military is against Maduro’s regime. On the same day, at a protest in Barquisimeto, military forces meant to suppress protests abandoned their posts. RPP reports that one of the men leading the force said, “I would rather withdraw my men than repress the people.”
Guaidó’s administration is currently focusing on gaining the military’s support and reassuring its leaders that they will be protected under the newly elected government should they reject Maduro as president. Having the support of the military is crucial to ensure a peaceful constitutional transition from Maduro to a new, democratically elected president. With this recent political shift in the military, there is reason to believe that the presidential crisis will be resolved soon.