Can the real President please stand up?

Venezuela has been caught in a downward spiral for years with growing political discontent further fuelled by skyrocketing hyperinflation, power cuts and shortages of food and medicine. More than three million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years. But what exactly is behind the crisis rocking Venezuela?

Who’s the president?
On January 23 rd , the leader of the legislature, Juan Guaidó, declared himself acting president, directly challenging the power of President Nicolás Maduro, who had been sworn in to a second six-year term in office just two weeks previously. Not surprisingly, President Maduro said that he was the constitutional president and would remain so.

Why is the presidency disputed?
Nicolás Maduro was first elected in April 2013 after the death of his socialist mentor and predecessor in office, Hugo Chávez. At the time, he won by a thin margin of 1.6 percentage points. During his first term in office, the economy went into freefall and many Venezuelans blame him and his socialist government for the country’s decline.

Mr Maduro was re-elected to a second six-year term in highly controversial elections in May 2018, which most opposition parties boycotted. Mr Maduro’s re-election was not recognised by Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly.

The National Assembly, presided by 35-year old Juan Guaido, argues that because the election was not fair, Mr Maduro is a “ursurper”and the presidency is vacant. Citing articles 233 and 333 of Venezuela's constitution, the legislature says that in such cases, the head of the National Assembly takes over as acting president. That is why Mr Guaidó declared himself acting president on 23 January.

What next?
Juan Guaidó called on all of those opposed to President Maduro and his government to continue protesting “until Venezuela is liberated”;. The security forces are seen as the key player in this crisis. So far, they have been loyal to Mr Maduro, who has rewarded them with frequent pay rises and put high-ranking military men in control of key posts and industries. Mr Guaidó has promised all security forces personnel an amnesty if they break allegiance with President Maduro. The world is waiting to see what this political impasse leads to.

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