United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday appealed for dialogue to stop Venezuela’s political crisis spiraling out of control after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president.
“What we hope is that dialogue can be possible, and that we avoid an escalation that would lead to the kind of conflict that would be a disaster for the people of Venezuela and for the region,” he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The United States, Brazil, Columbia and other nations on Wednesday endorsed Guaido’s declaration in rejection of President Nicolas Maduro, as more protests rocked the economically strapped country.
Spain, Mexico, Bolivia, Russia, and Turkey are among other nations who have refused to recognize Guaido.
Why This Matters
How exactly the political crisis will end remains unclear at this time.
Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Guaido as interim president, Maduro severed ties with the U.S. and expelled its diplomats, giving them 72 hours to leave the country.
Shortly after, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement saying the U.S. will not comply with the order because it no longer recognizes Maduro’s authority to issue it.
“The United States maintains diplomatic relations with Venezuela and will conduct our relations with Venezuela through the government of interim President Guaido, who has invited our mission to remain in Venezuela,” Pompeo said.
Thousands of people take to the streets across Venezuela in protest against Pres. Nicolas Maduro.
— ABC News (@ABC) January 24, 2019
In a statement, Guterres’s office said he was “concerned over reports of casualties in the context of demonstrations and unrest in Venezuela.”
Twenty-six people have been killed since the latest wave of protests since it broke out four days ago, the Caracas-based Observatory of Social Conflict said Thursday.
“Sovereign governments have the possibility to decide whatever they want,” the U.N. secretary-general said on a Facebook Live broadcast from Davos.
“What we are worried (about)… is the suffering of the people of Venezuela,” he said.
Guterres called for “a transparent and independent investigation of these incidents.”
Trump said Wednesday that the United States will hold Maduro’s government responsible for any violence related to the political turmoil.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also said she was “very worried” about the developments in Venezuela.
“We hope that there will be a peaceful solution,” the former Chilean president told AFP in Davos.
Maduro has presided over a deepening economic crisis that has left millions in poverty as the oil-rich country faces shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.
Maduro has blamed the country’s economic woes on the United States, which has imposed crushing sanctions on Venezuela and has sought to oust Maduro’s United Socialist Party from power since his predecessor, Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999.
— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) January 23, 2019
Some 2.3 million people have fled since 2015, U.N. figures show, while the International Monetary Fund says inflation will hit a staggering 10 million percent this year.
The U.N.’s World Food Program has been shut out of Venezuela by Maduro’s government but is working in border areas to help people fleeing the country.
The situation is “heartbreaking,” WFP chief David Beasley told AFP in Davos.
He said he hoped the U.N. agency would regain access to Venezuela to provide desperately-needed assistance, “regardless of what government is in place.”
“We know that people are starving in Venezuela. We know that it is not isolated incidents of hunger in Venezuela. It is widespread,” he said.
It’s unclear what will happen if the crisis is not settled before Maduro’s 72-hour ultimatum, which potentially sets the stage for a dramatic confrontation between his government and the U.S.
On Wednesday, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters on a briefing call that the Trump has not ruled out a military invasion to oust Maduro, saying “all options” are on the table.
Fighting between factions of the Venezuelan military also remains a possibility, as military leaders will have to choose which government they are loyal to.
Venezuela’s powerful military high command threw its weight behind President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday as opposition leader Juan Guaido pressed a direct challenge to his authority with the backing of the United States and key Latin American allies.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, a general, accused Guaido of attempting a “coup d’etat” and said Maduro, 56, is “the legitimate president.”
Eight generals who command of strategic regions of the country reiterated their “absolute loyalty and subordination” to the socialist leader in messages carried on state television.
Some ended their statements by adding: “Always loyal, never traitors.”
More on the Subject
The United States on Wednesday recognized Venezuelan opposition leader JuanGuaido as the interim president, urging the overthrow of leftist President Nicolas Maduro following tainted elections and a spiraling economic crisis.
In a coordinated bid to oust Maduro, Guaido declared himself acting president during a mass demonstration and within minutes was recognized by President Donald Trumpas well as the Organization of American States.
Maduro has repeatedly blamed the nation’s woes on the United States, which he accuses of plotting a coup in a continuation of the U.S. history of meddling in Latin America.