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Venezuela’s power struggle reaches a tense stalemate, as human suffering deepens

Even in a country where crisis has become the norm, the past month has been eventful for Venezuela.

On April 3 Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan National Assembly president who is leading an effort to remove President Nicolás Maduro from office, was stripped of his parliamentary immunity. Arrest seems increasingly likely. Guaidó’s chief-of-staff was jailed on March 22, on charges of organizing a “terrorist cell.”

Two days later, two Russian military planes carrying 35 tons of unspecified equipment and 100 soldiers landed at the international airport in Caracas.

Meanwhile, three blackouts left over 90 percent of the country in the dark. Since water pumps need electricity to run, neighborhoods and families were forced to organize water rationing systems or fetch water from polluted rivers and streams.

Maduro blames the blackouts on “sabotage” by Guaidó and the United States. The opposition blames government corruption and neglect of Venezuela’s energy grid.

Thousands of Venezuelans protesting the power outages on March 30 were met with violent repression. Counter-protestors came out to support the Maduro government.

These extraordinary events may give the appearance that armed conflict is on the horizon. But having researched Venezuela for over 25 years, I believe a prolonged deadlock – and deeper human suffering – is the more likely result.

International conflict

Each side in Venezuela’s political struggle has powerful international backers.

Guaidó has been coordinating with the Trump administration since before assuming the interim presidency, and Trump has made regime change in Venezuela a foreign policy priority. Over 50 countries now recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

Maduro’s government retains important support from Cuba, Turkey and China – though China, which has loaned Venezuela some $60 billion over the last 12 years, has diminished its public backing of Maduro.

Read more at Mercatornet. 

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