Venezuela Can Now Get Rid of Nicolas Maduro and His Disastrous Reign

Anti-government protesters cheer after Juan Guaido, head of Venezuela’s opposition-run congress, declares himself interim president of the South American country until a new election can be called, at a rally demanding the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Photo: Boris Vergara, AP)

Venezuelans are back in the streets demanding an end to the autocratic rule of Nicolas Maduro. We’ve seen this picture before, but then nothing happens, and the socialist dictator gets to consolidate his grip on power. But this time could be different. Even President Donald Trump formally recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate “interim president.”

The disastrous economic policies of Maduro, and of his predecessor Hugo Chavez, have brought the country to the brink of “an absolute disaster in unprecedented proportions for the Western Hemisphere,” according to a top United Nations official. Under “chavismo,” Venezuela has become a mafia state with grotesque levels of corruption and government-sponsored crime — this is not simply a band of incompetent socialist ideologues. But things are beginning to fall in place for change.

First, the opposition — long maimed and deeply divided, with many of its leaders behind bars, in exile or discredited after years of fruitless posturing — has coalesced under the energetic leadership of Juan Guaido, the 35-year-old president of the National Assembly. The opposition had lost the trust of most Venezuelans, 80 percent of whom want Maduro gone, but Guaido has reignited the chemistry between both camps. He combines courage, determination and honesty. Guaido seems to be the missing link the opposition needed to get their act together.

Second, international pressure is at its highest point. Most Western governments refused to recognize Maduro’s second term — which began on January 10 — after widely fraudulent elections last May. Instead, they recognized the opposition-controlled National Assembly as the only legitimate body of the Venezuelan government. The Assembly then invoked the Venezuelan Constitution to call Maduro a “usurper” and swearing in Guaido as interim president.

The United States, Canada and most Latin American countries swiftly welcomed him as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. Moreover, targeted Western sanctions are making life increasingly difficult for key figures within the regime and it is likely that they will contribute to cracking it on the margins. The United States, the European Union and other governments should expand the number of people exposed to these sanctions.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Juan Carlos Hidalgo