Juan Guaidó says country facing refugee crisis on a par with Syria as millions flee
Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó.
Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images
Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, has urged the world not to turn its back on his struggling country and the millions of people who have fled across its borders to escape poverty and political turbulence.
Addressing the World Economic Forum on Thursday, Guaidó said the international community had a duty to help those suffering in Venezuela and those trying to leave.
“I am here today to ensure that none of you leaves Venezuela on the outside,” he said. “Your countries, together with mine, can make a better difference. It’s a future that Venezuelans don’t have at the moment, that Venezuelan mothers don’t have as they walk from Caracas to Lima – which is like walking from Madrid to Helsinki – because they are hungry and desperate and want to be able to give birth with dignity.”
While Venezuelans had the will to end the authoritarian rule of the president, Nicolás Maduro, they could not do so alone, he said.
Guaidó, who was sworn in for a second term as the head of Venezuela’s national assembly amid chaotic scenes this month, said his country was facing a refugee crisis on a par with that of Syria.
“There are 5.5 million Venezuelan refugees who are looking for the opportunities they’ve been denied by the regime,” he said. “Teachers and nurses are now earning $3.50 a month – not a week, not per day, $3.50 a month. But despite all that, they get up every day to teach our kids and to protest peacefully for their right for the Venezuela of the future … The only country that has expelled more of its citizens than Venezuela is Syria, but we’ll overtake Syria this year if the dictatorship continues.”
While Venezuela was not at war and no bombs were falling, he said, “we still hear cries and pain of those mothers who are far from their children. There are a million children in Venezuela whose parents have moved to other countries to try to earn the money to support them.”
On Wednesday Guaidó called for the EU to use more sanctions to ramp up the pressure on Maduro’s government. “Dictatorships and dictators need to know that there are sanctions, that there is a responsibility and that they can’t laugh at the world,” he told the Associated Press.
On Thursday he told reporters at Davos that while broadening sanctions was controversial, they were needed to bring about free, fair and transparent elections. “The worst sanction facing Venezuela is the dictatorship,” he said.
Q&A Why is Venezuela in such a bad way?
Venezuela’s current plight can be traced to a revolution that went terribly wrong.
When Hugo Chávez, a former military officer, was elected president in 1998, he inherited a middle-income country plagued by deep inequality. Chávez had led an abortive coup attempt in 1992 and after winning power through the ballot box he set about transforming society. Chávez drove through a wide range of social reforms as part of his Bolivarian revolution, financed with the help of high oil profits – but he also bypassed parliament with a new constitution in 1999.
The muzzling of parliamentary democracy – and the spread of corruption and mismanagement in state-run enterprises – intensified after 2010 amid falling oil prices. Chávez’s “economic war” against shortages led to hyperinflation and the collapse of private sector industry. The implosion in the economy between 2013 and 2017 was worse than the US in the Great Depression.
In an attempt to stabilise the economy and control prices of essential goods, Chávez introduced strict controls on foreign currency exchange, but the mechanism soon became a tool for corruption.
When Chávez died of cancer, his place was taken by his foreign minister, Nicolás Maduro, who has intensified his mentor’s approach of responding to the economic downward spiral by concentrating power, ruling by decree and political repression.
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After Guaidó’s meeting on Wednesday with the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, the European foreign affairs office issued a statement saying the bloc was committed “to supporting a genuine process toward a peaceful and democratic resolution of the crisis, based on credible and transparent presidential and legislative elections”.
Guaidó defied a travel ban to visit Europe this week in an effort to regain some of the momentum lost since he used his position as national assembly president to declare himself Venezuela’s rightful interim leader last year.
This was recognised by around 60 countries, but his efforts to oust Maduro have been thwarted repeatedly. A botched coup fizzled out in May and Guaidó and his supporters had to force their way into parliament two weeks ago to reinstall him as leader.
Guaidó met Boris Johnson on Tuesday. He is not due to meet Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, on his European visit and will instead hold talks with Spain’s foreign minister.
The move has been seen as proof of the influence of Sánchez’s coalition partners, the far-left, anti-austerity Unidas Podemos alliance. Its leader, Pablo Iglesias, now a deputy prime minister, once criticised the Spanish government for backing Guaidó, whom he accused of seeking to stage a US-backed coup and a bring about “bloodbath” in Venezuela.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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This post was originally posted on Venezuela | The Guardian – View Original Article