Venezuela

Maduro, still deeply unpopular, finds strength in Venezuela stalemate, survey shows

Venezuela’s Guaidó calls for uprising in video

Interim president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, called for a military uprising on April 30, 2019, in a video shot at a Caracas air base that showed him surrounded by soldiers and accompanied by detained activist Leopoldo López.
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Interim president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, called for a military uprising on April 30, 2019, in a video shot at a Caracas air base that showed him surrounded by soldiers and accompanied by detained activist Leopoldo López.

A new poll suggests that the five-month political stalemate in Venezuela is subtly helping Nicolás Maduro, as an increasing number of people acknowledge that he’s the country’s legitimate leader — despite the international recognition for his rival, Juan Guaidó.

A poll released by Datincorp over the weekend found 41 percent consider Maduro the country’s “constitutional president” versus 36 percent who say the same about Guaidó.

In February — a month after Washington and more than 50 other nations backed Guaidó as interim president — 49 percent believed the young politician was the country’s true leader, versus 34 percent who said the same about Maduro.

Even so, the poll also makes clear that Maduro, 57, remains deeply unpopular in a country seized by hyperinflation, electricity rationing and fuel shortages.

The study found that 40 percent of the population considers itself in the “opposition” versus 19 percent who say they are government supporters or “Chavistas,” the ruling party that follows ideology implemented by the late President Hugo Chávez. Thirty-eight percent say they are “non-aligned.”

If presidential elections were held now, Guaidó would win with 33 percent of the vote versus Maduro’s 16 percent. Opposition stalwarts Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado would win 11 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

But a full 18 percent said they wouldn’t vote for any of the likely candidates.

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The survey of 1,200 people has a margin of error of 2.8 percent. Polls are viewed with suspicion in polarized Venezuela, but Datincorp has been in the business for three decades and its results have been reliable in the past. And the broad findings of the poll — that Guaidó is seeing his popularity slip even as Maduro remains deeply unpopular — have been backed up by other surveys.

The results also underscore how Venezuelans are increasingly focused on daily survival rather than the political struggle that has dominated headlines.

Respondents said the economy, healthcare and public services were the country’s top three most critical problems. The “political and institutional” crisis was in fifth place, tied with security.

The poll comes as Guaidó, the 35-year-old president of the National Assembly, has been struggling to turn international support into political power. In January, he declared himself interim president and in April he tried to seize control through a military uprising, only to see it fizzle.

Since then, Maduro has tightened his grip, jailing more than a dozen people for their role in the putsch.

It’s unclear how the impasse will be resolved. Initially, Washington suggested that outside military force wasn’t out of the question to bring Guaidó to power. It has walked back that idea since then. And the poll found that just 38 percent of Venezuelans believe a military intervention is possible versus the 54 percent who don’t think it will happen.

But there’s even more pessimism surrounding incipient negotiations taking place in Europe. According to the poll, only 23 percent believe those talks might lead to a resolution, while 66 percent said they would not be successful.

Washington’s efforts to oust Maduro have included ratcheting up economic and financial sanctions and taking aim at the country’s vital petroleum sector. While the State Department argues that those sanctions only hurt the government, and not the general population, 68 percent of those surveyed believed the measures had impacted their quality of life.

Maduro, who has been in power since 2013, argues that he has the right to rule through 2025 and that Guaidó is a U.S. puppet who is trying to illegally seize the presidency.

But 59 percent of those surveyed believe in Guaidó’s plan to force Maduro out of office, create a transitional government and call for new elections. And only 28 percent think that Maduro will serve out his full term.

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