United States should continue to back democracy in Venezuela, around the world

Hunter Gill, Editor-in-Cheif

The United States, along with Canada, Israel and numerous South American countries, recently backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó in the countries’ now prominent struggle for power. Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s opposition controlled National Assembly, declared himself president January 23.

Current Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, was elected president in 2013 after the death of his socialist mentor Hugo Chavez. He was recently sworn in for a second six-year term of office, but the election was not recognized by the National Assembly as anyone who attempted to run against Maduro was barred from running, were jailed, or fled out of fear of imprisonment.

Guaidó’s claim of presidency is seen as legitimate by many because of a provision in the Constitution of Venezuela that calls for the head of the National Assembly to be installed as president in the event of a fraudulent election. Guaidó also has garnered extensive support from the public, many of whom are frustrated with years of economy-stifling socialist policies restricting industry and currency exchange, among other things. Inflation in the country also, according to the the National Assembly, reached 1.3 million percent in November 2018.

Guaidó currently has little formal power inside his own country, especially after the National Assembly’s power was undermined in 2017 with the creation of the National Constituent Assembly, which was promptly stocked with Maduro loyalists. The United States, however, recently gave Guaidó control of all Venezuelan bank accounts held in the US.

Other countries poised to support Guaidó include France, Britain, Germany and Spain, most of whom announced that they would publicly support Guaidó unless a new, free election was announced.

The move by the United States to back Guaidó came with backlash from Maduro who, shortly after the announcement, expelled all United States diplomats from the country. Other sources of backlash came from both anti-democratic Russia and China who back the Maduro regime, as well as from inside the US.

“A US backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face. Trump’s efforts to install a far-right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We must support Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue,” tweeted congresswoman and member of the House foreign affairs committee Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

Her tweet, however, is highly misleading. A coup is defined as “a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government”– Guaidó’s play for power is neither illegal nor violent. In addition, Guaidó is not a right-wing politician. He is a member of the centrist Popular Will party.

In fact, all Guaidó has called for is support for a free, democratic election. Recent history is shown that democracy should rarely be on the same side as Russia and China, neither of which have free and fair elections.

The United States has little to lose and much to gain in this situation, especially with the concurrent support of other prominent world powers. It has long been the policy of the United States to back democracy around the world- let us not stop now.