Venezuela Is in Crisis. So How Did Maduro Secure a Second Term?

Venezuela Is in Crisis. So How Did Maduro Secure a Second Term?

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela is set to be inaugurated on Thursday for the second time, extending his term in office to 2025, after winning an election last year that had been rejected by nations across the region as illegitimate.

He and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, presided over the free-fall of what was once Latin America’s wealthiest nation. The country’s economy continues to unravel at an alarming rate.

Violence and hunger have become emblematic of the years since he first took office, inflation has skyrocketed, and the migration of Venezuelans out of the country has reached unprecedented levels.

But even as his country is grappling with a humanitarian crisis driven by this collapse, Mr. Maduro has clung to power.

So how did he get here, and how has he managed to hold on?

Here’s what to know as Mr. Maduro begins his second term in office.

Mr. Maduro’s re-election in May 2018 was widely criticized, with reports of coercion, fraud and electoral rigging.

He first came to power in a snap vote following Mr. Chávez’s death in 2013, after the former leader had anointed him as successor.

But by the 2018 election, Venezuela’s economy had plummeted to new lows as a result of mismanagement and corruption, and the country was in the midst of a crisis.

Despite that, election officials said Mr. Maduro won 68 percent of the vote. The chaotic state of the country and the desperation of poor voters may actually have contributed to Mr. Maduro’s ability to maintain control.

“We are going to effectively represent the people,” Mr. Guaidó said, “and we have plans to call the people to the streets in legitimate protest.”

Mr. Maduro has found some allies in the region, including President Evo Morales of Bolivia, a fellow socialist who will attend the inauguration.

And Mexico’s new leftist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, invited Mr. Maduro to his own inauguration and has taken a friendlier stance in relations with Venezuela than his predecessor.

Russia has remained a staunch ally, with President Vladimir V. Putin voicing his support for Mr. Maduro during a December meeting in Moscow. A year earlier, Russia agreed to restructure some $3 billion in loans to prevent Venezuela from defaulting.

Venezuela has also received recent financial support from China. After Mr. Maduro visited Beijing in September, he secured $5 billion in loans.

Within his country, loyal “chavista” governors, named for their support of Mr. Chávez and his revolutionary leftist policies, expressed their support for Mr. Maduro in a news conference on Wednesday. Héctor Rodríguez, governor of the state of Miranda, denounced Mr. Maduro’s critics and urged the country’s opposition to “reconsider” their criticism of the leader.

Still, there has been widespread international condemnation of Mr. Maduro’s re-election.

Last week, 13 nations of the Lima Group — a multilateral working group of Latin American countries plus Canada that organized to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela — announced that they would not recognize the legitimacy of Mr. Maduro’s new term. The group urged Mr. Maduro to hand power to the National Assembly until another election could be held, in order to restore democracy.

On Wednesday, Mr. Maduro responded to the criticism in a national address saying Washington had ordered a coup d’état against his government and that the Lima Group was helping to coordinate it.

Daily life in Venezuela has become unrecognizable from what it was a few short years ago. Where once the government built homes, clinics and schools for the poor as part of its socialist policy, people are now finding themselves without the most basic necessities.

The country’s health system has collapsed, leaving many without access to lifesaving medicine. Hunger is common, and the shelves of grocery stores lie bare. But there is no sense conditions are improving. The International Monetary Fund anticipates that Venezuela’s inflation rate will reach 10 million percent in 2019, becoming one of the worst cases of hyperinflation in modern history.

More than three million people have fled Venezuela since 2014, according to the United Nations migration agency, setting off a regional crisis that has left neighboring countries grappling with how to respond

Some of those who remain in the country have reached their breaking point.

Margarita Uzcategui, 64, who lives in what used to be a thriving neighborhood of Caracas, described water shortages and electricity cuts that can last for up to 12 hours.

“I never imagined I would have to live like this,” she said.

While she believes the government has failed her, she said she doesn’t trust the opposition, either.

“For me, this is the end. This has to be the end. If we are living like this now, imagine six more years,” said Mrs. Uzcategui. “We will have no food, water, electricity. God help us.”

Source link