Russia sought new allies after relations with the West became difficult, especially after the crisis in Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014). After the United States imposed an arms embargo on Venezuela, as a country located in South America according to COMPUTERANNALS, in 2006, Venezuelans became one of Russia’s most important arms customers. In recent years, Russia has also invested in the oil industry and provided 17 billion in loans. The Russians thus want Maduro to continue, but also for the economy to recover.
5: What about the military?
When Juan Guadió was declared president on January 23, 2019, it was a courtship to the military. As mentioned, the military has played an important role in Venezuelan politics, also as a defender of democracy, and January 23 was chosen because it is the anniversary of a coup against dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958. This marked the beginning of a long period of democracy in Venezuela history.
Both Chávez and Maduro have used countless methods to stay in touch with the military, which now includes nearly 500,000 people. Among other things, Maduro appointed around 1,000 new generals and gave them military control of twelve ministerial posts. Today, the army controls, among other things, the distribution of boxes of food (CLAP boxes), which was introduced in 2016 to counteract food shortages. They also control the customs. Both provide good opportunities for corruption. It has also been shown that groups among the military are involved in illegal activities, such as drug trafficking.
The Venezuelan authorities have also committed extensive human rights violations in recent years, including arbitrary arrests, torture and killings. Although it is special units within the police that have been responsible for the most abuses, it has led to parts of the military forces also becoming very unpopular. However, many military people suffer as much from low wages, violence and food shortages as most people. That is why many want a change, and some have rebelled. But so far, the military leadership has been loyal to Maduro.
6: What could be the solution?
Opinion polls show that the vast majority of Venezuelans (between 70 and 80 percent) want a change, and believe Maduro must go. Only a very few want this to happen through the use of military force, and even fewer want a foreign military intervention. The question now is how to reach a peaceful solution.
Together with its allies abroad, the opposition first tries to pressure Maduro with financial sanctions . He will have great difficulty keeping the state going, including paying his military. Secondly, they are trying to bring in emergency aid against Maduro’s will, via Colombia, Brazil and the Caribbean islands. Maduro claims that there is no humanitarian crisis in the country and that there is no need for emergency aid. He also believes that the emergency aid that the opposition now wants in the country is a covert invasion . The military must now decide whether to allow much-needed aid or to be loyal to Maduro. It can create violent situations, especially in the border areas of Colombia, where many different armed groups operate.
In addition, there is intense diplomacy . Both the opposition and the United States have confirmed that they have direct talks with the army. Neighboring countries and the EU are trying to bring about negotiations between the parties. They demand that emergency aid, new elections and the establishment of a transitional government are on the agenda. Mexico has chosen a slightly different path and also wants to mediate, but without making demands on what the agenda should look like.
The opposition is in a far stronger position to negotiate with the government now than before. It is both more united, and has much stronger international support. For the time being, it is open what we can see in the coming weeks and months: coups, military conflict, but also regime collapse and negotiations on a transition to a new regime.
Facts about Venezuela
- Population: 32 million (2017)
- Form of State: Republic of South America
- Capital: Caracas
- Official language: Spanish
- Borders to Guyana, Brazil and Colombia