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Political Upheaval, U.S. Sanctions In Venezuela As Juan Guaidó Asserts Authority

Juan Guaido, head of Venezuela's opposition-run congress, declares himself interim president of the nation until elections can be held during a rally demanding President Nicolas Maduro's resignation in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Fernando Llano/AP)
Juan Guaido, head of Venezuela's opposition-run congress, declares himself interim president of the nation until elections can be held during a rally demanding President Nicolas Maduro's resignation in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Fernando Llano/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Understanding the crisis in Venezuela. A fight for power, new U.S. sanctions and a catastrophe for the nation’s poor.


Joshua Goodman, Andean news director for The Associated Press. ( @ APjoshgoodman)

Nick Paton Walsh, senior international correspondent for CNN. ( @npwcnn)

Shannon O’Neil, vice president and senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. ( @shannonkoneil)

Francisco Toro, Venezuelan journalist, editor of the online journal Caracas Chronicles and a contributor to the Washington Post. ( @QuicoToro)

From The Reading List

Caracas Chronicles: “ It’s Working” — “Consider two political movements. The first is one of Latin America’s most unsuccessful mass movements. Even though polls show its political adversary is widely loathed, it cannot solidify the trust of the people it seeks to lead. Among foreign diplomats and journalists it has gained a reputation for hopeless incompetence, serial squabbling, glacial decision-making, strategic myopia and near total rudderlessness. Despite decades in the political wilderness, it has failed to cohere around a shared strategy or a cohesive vision. It has little credibility and virtually no political power.

“The second is one of the region’s most widely admired and effective mass movements. It has backed its longtime political adversary into a hopeless geostrategic corner, as it rallies its supporters in a carefully calibrated set of street actions thoroughly synced with a global diplomatic push. Actively supported by governments throughout the hemisphere, it has been warmly embraced by nearly every Western Democracy. Gaining a reputation for seizing the strategic initiative, it acts quickly and decisively under the direction of a single, widely respected leader. Offering a clear inclusive vision, it has a strategic plan of action anyone can memorize and is growing rapidly in credibility and political power.

“These two political movements are, in fact, the same movement —the Venezuelan opposition— at two different times: the first week of January 2019, and the last week of January 2019. The transformation the opposition has undergone is so radical, so complete, and so total that it is hard to believe it took place in just a few weeks. What happened? How could things turn around so quickly?”

CNN: “ Venezuelan army defectors appeal to Trump for weapons” — “Venezuelan army defectors are calling on the Trump administration to arm them, in what they call their quest for “freedom.”

“Former soldiers Carlos Guillen Martinez and Josue Hidalgo Azuaje, who live outside the country, told CNN they want US military assistance to equip others inside the beleaguered nation. They claim to be in contact with hundreds of willing defectors and have called on enlisted Venezuelan soldiers to revolt against the Maduro regime, through television broadcasts.

“‘As Venezuelan soldiers, we are making a request to the US to support us, in logistical terms, with communication, with weapons, so we can realize Venezuelan freedom,’ Guillen Martinez told CNN.

“Hidalgo Azuaje added: ‘We’re not saying that we need only US support, but also Brazil, Colombia, Peru, all brother countries, that are against this dictatorship.’ ”

CNN: “ As Venezuela creeps towards starvation, soldiers lose patience” — “CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh spoke to people in Caracas about protests and the stand-off between Juan Guaido and Nicolas Maduro.”

Associated Press: “ Presidential standoff may worsen Venezuelans’ misery” — “The U.S. recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president is being touted by the Trump administration as the only way to restore the country’s democracy. But as Elizabeth Pineda was stocking up on staples Sunday at a sidewalk market near a Caracas slum, she was bracing for things to get a lot worse, not better.

“A retired secretary, Pineda survives on a monthly pension of just 18,000 bolivars, or about $6. She supplements her income working as an astrologer, and although the stars have been telling her Venezuelans are on the road to ridding themselves of socialist President Nicolas Maduro, she doesn’t expect him to go quickly or quietly.

“‘The government is going to strangle us even more with their bad decisions and shamelessness,’ Pineda said while sharing a bowl of beef soup with two friends, none of whom can afford the $1.50 meal on their own.

“Economists agree that the longer the standoff between the U.S.-backed Guaido and Maduro drags on, the more regular Venezuelans are likely to suffer.

“Maduro, who so far appears to have the backing of the decisive military, has dug in, accusing the U.S. of orchestrating a coup by encouraging Guaido to declare himself interim president and then leading a chorus of nations that immediately recognized his rule.”

NPR: “ Who Is Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó?” — “In less than a month, Juan Guaidó has risen from obscure, junior lawmaker to self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela and the most serious threat yet to the authoritarian government of Nicolás Maduro.

“Guaidó, who defied Maduro by taking the oath of office on Wednesday, claims to lead a transitional government that will call free elections and return Venezuela to democracy. The 35-year-old was immediately recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate leader by the United States, Canada and most Latin American nations and received widespread support from European countries.

“In a speech Friday to cheering supporters at an outdoor plaza in Caracas, Guaidó proclaimed: ‘We have awakened from the nightmare, brothers and sisters.’ ”

Stefano Kotsonis produced this hour for broadcast.

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