Venezuelan Maduro tightens power grip helped by coronavirus locking

President Nicolas Maduro accuses opposition leader Juan Guaido of being behind a military raid designed to oust him during an online press conference in Caracas on May 6, 2020.

On Tuesday, the Venezuelan Supreme Court suspended the leadership of the main opposition party, Primero Justicia, and decided that a pro-government deputy should be responsible. On Monday, the same happened to the second largest opposition party, Acción Democrática. Both decisions were based on complaints from deported party members.

A week ago, the country’s highest court appointed new members of an electoral Board, consisting of five officials assigned to hold elections. Two of the new magistrates have previously served as judges in the same Supreme Court, and one is a former Socialist MP who has been under US sanctions since 2017.

The court, which traditionally supports the president, has ruled in the Venezuelan constitution – despite the fact that the National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition, must elect members of the Election Council. The ruling was part of a model in which the upper court refused to recognize the legitimacy of the parliament.

Praising the decisions he made on Tuesday, Maduro said, “We will change everything that needs to be changed in the National Assembly. With a lot of power and faith, our action will be magnificent.”

Coronavirus policy

The rapid succession decisions of the Supreme Court show that the balance lies in Venezuela and that the opposition feels confident enough to strengthen Maduro’s rule while being effectively silenced by the coronavirus.

At least until March 2020, Venezuela lived with some kind of corporate limbo: on the one hand, there was Maduro, who had ruled the country since 2013 and was accused of holding elections and changing the presidency in dictatorship after the election. On the other hand, there was the National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó, whom the US and dozens of countries recognized as the temporary interim president, as long as Maduro remained in power.

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Guaidó did not have authority in Caracas, but he received the support of the international community as an example when he was invited as a guest to President Trump’s Union State address in February.

Coronavirus changed all this: Suddenly political and institutional conflicts were pushed aside, and Maduro asserted himself as the one who struggled with the pandemic.

He curfewed, received medical aid from China, and began taking detailing measures on television and announcing new cases and deaths almost every day.

The opposition, which had a locked-down population to prevent virus spread, was no longer able to organize street protests or even convened in the National Assembly itself.

“Thinking office in Latin America, Washington expert in thought, Venezuelan expert Geoff Ramsey, told CNN,” It is clear that Maduro benefits from the pandemic. “” He seemed weak at any time in the past two years, or if he is not responsible, he is now compensating. “

To date, Venezuela has recorded less than 3,500 cases of coronavirus and only 28 deaths, but experts suspect the reliability of these numbers, as the country’s health system is in turmoil and has limited capacity to conduct Covid-19 tests.

Returning the enemy of a former chief prosecutor Maduro, Luisa Ortega Diaz told CNN that he cannot believe the government’s success story. “Maduro claims to be this anti-Covid knight when he has nothing to do with public welfare.”

Ortega admitted that he was able to use the outbreak to strengthen Maduro’s rules.

Maduro’s major leap forward

Maduro’s last moves were not noticed. On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the new Election Council as “illegal” and said, “It is driving Venezuela away from a democratic transition”.

Similar criticisms came from the Lima Group, which brought together the European Union and Latin American countries that did not know Maduro.

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However, apart from condemning the latest edition of the Venezuelan leader, there seems to be little that the international community can do to change Venezuela for now.

Maduro and some of its closest officials have been under US direct sanctions since 2017, followed by an oil embargo in 2019. He got rid of many attempts to overthrow it and negotiations to find an almost peaceful solution. Despite all this, he is still standing.

Moreover, Latin America has become the center of the epidemic, and most of its governments are busy fighting the virus rather than finding a solution to the political stalemate in Venezuela.

“It was a great opportunity for Pandemi Maduro,” said Venezuelan historian Margarita López Maya at Caracas Central University.

He said the decision to hold the army responsible for the coronavirus response strengthens social control. [10] In March, the Venezuelan Army was deployed to implement strict social removal measures across the country, while recently the soldiers were using gas stations for rational fuel.

“We have an expression in Venezuela – it’s running forward,” López Venezuela said. “Obviously, the government thought it was the right time to make a big leap forward to position themselves ahead of the future.”

What’s next?

In a country as volatile as Venezuela, the future remains uncertain.

Rafael Simón Jiménez, one of the five new members of the Election Council, told CNN that he saw himself as a rival to Maduro and that the opposition’s appointment should be a progress towards fair elections.

Jimenez is part of a large group of opposition chavista opposition figures: politicians who worked with Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, before leaving the reign. Similar to former AG Ortega Diaz, it is not an ally of Jimenez Maduro, nor is it automatically a member of the opposition led by Guaido.

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Guaidó said that he has not recognized the Supreme Court decision so far and will not participate in an election held by the new Election Council.

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However, opposition parties appointed this week by court decision may decide to compete in the new leaders election and further distribute the area of ​​opposition between groups that recognize Guaido’s leadership and those that do not.

Analyst Ramsey still finds hope for a peaceful solution in Venezuela.

He said that the international community, in particular, sees the negotiation between Maduro and the opposition as still the best possible outcome, and while denouncing the new Election Council, Maduro itself seems open to the possibility of joining the next round. elections.

Maduro’s departure has long been launched as a prerequisite for any meaningful negotiation in Venezuela, but said that if the opposition leaves this requirement, the government can be persuaded to engage in meaningful negotiations to ease sanctions.

Five “key areas” were listed as necessary for free and fair elections, Pompeo said on Monday. None of them addressed the role of Maduro, leaving the door open to final participation. “The window is small, fading, but the door does not close completely,” said Ramsey.

On the other hand, López Maya has a more pessimistic result in mind. “I don’t see the rationale behind the government’s enforcement,” he said. “What are they doing even by stealing the election and winning the National Assembly? What happens the next day? More conflict and division and the Venezuelan are bored of it.”

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About the Author: Abbott Hopkins

Analyst. Amateur problem solver. Wannabe internet expert. Coffee geek. Tv guru. Award-winning communicator. Food nerd.

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