By Tunji Offeyi
The fact that Venezuela is on the brink of collapse is no longer breaking news. The news is the tussle of power between President Nicholas Maduro and self-acclaimed president, Juan Guaido, the opposition leader now seen as the people’s messiah. These are interesting times in this oil rich South American country where ironically poverty reigns supreme.
National Assembly President Juan Guaido of Venezuela has declared himself President of that country amidst loud cheers from the populace. ‘Now is the time…We want change, we want freedom! ‘they yelled whilst he addressed them. Despite his declaration, this bold step by the 35 year old relatively unknown lawmaker might spark a constitutional crisis even as he called on the Army and police to switch allegiance from the embattled president Maduro, who first came into power in 2013 having succeeded his mentor, the late socialist, Hugo Chavez.
Could this be a case of David defeating Goliath? Only time will tell, but what we now know is that the President of the United States, Donald Trump, has recognised him as the legitimate President alongside his counterparts from Brazil, Colombia and Peru. Earlier Trump said that ‘We will continue to use the full weight of the United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy”.
Meanwhile Maduro continues to characterise these recognitions as mere opportunism and ‘interventionism’ asking all American diplomats to vacate the struggling country within 72 hours. A move Guaido immediately countered by asking them not to leave
‘ Through the powers that the Constitution grants me, I would like to communicate to all leaders of diplomatic missions and their accredited staff in Venezuela ….the state of Venezuela wants you to maintain your diplomatic presence in our country ..any messages to the contrary lack any validity, since they come from usurpers. They have no legitimate authority to make any statements on this.’
In the midst of this presidential crisis, one thing is paramount, to find a solution to this impasse before things completely fall apart for this fragile nation that is literally begging on its knees. Food shortages, absence of medicine from the shelves, hyperinflation and state authoritarianism have already driven many of its citizens abroad in self-exile from abject poverty. This is a country where a meal of Big Mac costs as much as 1,656 bolivars, whilst a pint of milk is no less than 730 bolivars according to facts made available through expatistan.
Hence this crisis must be nipped in the bud before this beautiful and blessed country melts down completely like Zimbabwe and other countries where hyperinflation rules. Above all this writer sympathises with the already battered citizens, who have no choice but to go on a protest against a dictator they are not certain to defeat. When two elephant fights, the grass suffers.