Why is Venezuela becoming an international conflict?

A group of EU member states have given President Maduro an ultimatum: he has eight days to call new elections in Venezuela. This comes after the US and a number of Latin American countries recognised Juan Guaidó as the interim president. Commentators examine the motives that have prompted Russia and Venezuela's neighbouring countries to adopt their stated position in the conflict.

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Obosrewatel (UA) /

Putin's fears

In Obozrevatel, Sviatoslav Batov, coordinator of a project of the Ukrainian Information Ministry to curb the dissemination of fake news, explains that Putin is backing Maduro because he fears competition on the oil market:

“Venezuela is the global leader in terms of proven oil reserves. With a population of 30 million the people there - if they had a solid leadership - would live no worse than those in other oil-rich states. Venezuela is currently producing four to five times less oil than Russia - despite the fact that it has four to five times more oil reserves. Imagine what would happen if right-wing capitalists, or at least centrists, came to power there, granted rights to the private sector and brought investors into the country? What would happen to the Russian economy? It would die, or at least experience a sharp decline.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

South America facing right-wing backlash

The fact that the Venezuelan government's power is being questioned has much to do with the shift to the right in the region as a whole, Handelsblatt's South American correspondent Alexander Busch believes:

“After Chile, Argentina and Colombia, with the election of right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro Brazil now also has a right-wing conservative government. Brazil is working actively with the US and the conservative Lima Group in Latin America to oust Maduro. Certainly, Brazil's critical stance vis-à-vis the dictatorship in Venezuela is to be welcomed. But the unconditional support for Guaidó harbours the risk of a conservative backlash - of a return to the political situation of the past, when together with its allies in the region the US fought leftist governments and bolstered right-wing regimes.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Just like old times

The world is divided in two camps just like during the Cold War, Večernji list notes:

“The government of leftist dictator and President Nicolas Maduro is supported by Russia, China and Cuba, while the US, Canada and a number of South American states (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru) tend to back parliamentary speaker Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself the interim head of state until new elections can be held. The West is calling for democratic elections in Venezuela while the East recognises Maduro as the winner of elections which were in fact a farce. The real opposition candidates were forbidden from running against Maduro, and the opposition boycotted the election, which is why only 46 percent of the electorate turned out - and of course voted for Maduro.”

Diena (LV) /

Only negotiations can bring peace

For Diena the goal cannot be simply for one side to prevail in the conflict in Venezuela:

“Whoever wins officially very likely won't be able to restore order in the country. Because in Latin America the opposite camp historically resorts to the methods of civil and partisan war, and this would create even bigger problems for Venezuela and its neighbours. The US also anticipates such a scenario and is reckoning with a military intervention. The only acceptable solution for Venezuela would be to get both sides to sit down at the negotiating table so that they can agree on an option that is acceptable to everyone.”

The Economist (GB) /

Full support for the opposition

All the countries of the West must unite behind Juan Guaidó, The Economist demands:

“America and the European Union should use all the tools at their disposal to promote peaceful change by boosting Mr Guaidó’s parallel government. That could include putting some of the money paid for oil exports into an account reserved for the national assembly, and using the threat of further sanctions to encourage defections from the regime. The backing of the Lima group will help refute Mr Maduro’s taunts that Mr Guaidó is just a gringo stooge. Should its odious regime finally collapse, Venezuela will need massive international support in the form of humanitarian aid, credit and economic and political help.”

Yetkin Report (TR) /

Trump leading international intrigue

In his blog Yetkin Report journalist Murat Yetkin, on the other hand, criticises any kind of foreign intervention:

“The US president's step is not just an unprecedented form of coup, it also bears the hallmarks of an international intrigue: just a few hours after the US decision Guiadó was also recognised by Canada and Venezuela's neighbours Brazil and Colombia. According to media reports both countries have deployed troops to their borders with Venezuela in recent weeks, indicating that there could be an open battle or even an invasion. ... Naturally I don't pretend to defend the autocracy of the incompetent Maduro, who is sitting on one of the world's largest oil fields yet has led his people into economic difficulties. ... But changing this, bringing democracy to the country, is not the job of Trump or any other power.”

Iswestija (RU) /

Following the same old pattern

For Izvestia it's clear that the US is pulling the strings in the Venezuelan uprising:

“The start of this week saw an attempted military coup. This uprising by a few soldiers was quickly crushed, but it did send a signal for more serious actions. What came next were mass riots and clashes with the police in Caracas and other states. This uprising was led by the leader of the dissolved opposition parliament, Juan Guaidó, who declared himself the interim president. His 'legitimacy' was promptly recognised by the US, immediately followed by a series of its satellites in Latin America. ... The Americans' skill lies in first provoking a financial and economic crisis in a country, driving the population to the verge of desperation and fuelling discontent. The rest is just a matter of technique.”

Trud (BG) /

EU's reserve is understandable

Trud examines why the EU is hesitating to recognise the interim president:

“[EU Foreign Affairs Representative] Federica Mogherini may not have recognised last year's presidential election and has described the National Assembly as the only democratic institution in Venezuela, but in her statement on the current situation she failed to offer Guaidó any kind of support as interim president. ... The working out of the EU's stance on the events in Venezuela will take time and require a serious analysis of the facts. The EU is reluctant to support Juan Guaidó's self-appointment because he has called for a coup and set himself up as the leader of the state without the constitution giving him the right to do so. This stands in contradiction to international law and the cornerstones of democracy.”

Terra (BR) /

Bloodbath or resignation

There's no way of telling how the power struggle in Venezuela will end, stresses Uta Thofern, chief editor for Latin America at German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, in a commentary on Brazilian news site Terra:

“Anything is possible now in the poorest rich country in the world. Another 'Arab Spring', with all the familiar consequences. A bloodbath. Or the arrest of Guaidó, an end to the demonstrations, and a relapse into the torturous resignation of recent months. ... Guaidó's public self-appointment as president is more than risky. ... And the demonstrative support from the US in particular is a double-edged sword. Any help from the US will give the Chavist hardliners around Maduro new arguments and fuel the myth that Venezuela's misery is the result of a US-led 'economic war'.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Army will decide Maduro's fate

Everything now depends on what the army does, NRC's Latin America expert Merijn de Waal explains:

“Cracks are appearing in Maduro's power block. ... Several highly-placed officers have already broken with the regime, often by fleeing the country. ... And the growing number of desertions testifies to the dissatisfaction in the lower ranks. ... At the same time, however, even former officers in exile don't believe that there'll be a military coup any time soon. The top military officers, they say, earn so much in Maduro's rapacious regime that they'd only put the president on a plane - for example to Havana - in an extreme emergency. And the opposition knows it. After the government brutally crushed popular unrest in 2014 and at the end of 2017, they now hope that the army will at least stay out of things.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Amnesty for the military is the right course

The Süddeutsche Zeitung sees three ways to free Venezuela from its captivity under Maduro:

“No doubt the quickest way would be a US-led invasion with Brazil's support. That would be the worst solution; the last thing this unstable region needs now is a war with unpredictable consequences. The second way would be a negotiated settlement that would allow Maduro and his criminal entourage to make an orderly withdrawal. That would be the best solution, but it's also the least likely. That leaves the third solution. Guaidó has offered the prospect of amnesty to the army, which so far has remained loyal to Maduro - if it changes sides. That's the most promising strategy. If critics of the regime are no longer beaten up, the country will no doubt witness a wave of protests that Maduro wouldn't survive.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Why Trump has intervened

Venezuela is a welcome diversion for Trump, but at least this time he's on the right side, comments US correspondent Vittorio Zucconi in La Repubblica:

“To escape the shutdown trap and the slow but unrelenting progress of the judicial investigations, President Donald Trump has put his foot in the human and political disaster called Venezuela and recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president. ... What concrete goals and actions he is pursuing with this move neither Trump nor his main advisor, daughter Ivanka, who immediately passed on her father's battle cry to the Venezuelans per Twitter, have revealed. ... But at least this time there has been unanimous condemnation of Maduro and the disaster of a nation of thirty million people suffering hunger.”

ABC (ES) /

Don't delay recognition

Spain and the EU must also recognise Guaidó as president as quickly as possible, ABC urges:

“This proclamation spells the end of the totalitarian, corrupt and perverse regime founded almost two decades ago by a brilliant soldier called Hugo Chávez, which a completely inept and incompetent person like Maduro tried to maintain. ... The cascade of recognitions of Guaidó as interim president started by the US, Colombia, Canada, Brazil, the [Organisation of American States] OAS and a growing list of countries leaves no doubt as to the general opinion among the international community on what is going on in Venezuela. The decision of the European Union will probably be taken after a series of discussions between capitals. It would be a shameful situation if Spain weren't among the first in line.”