Op-Ed

International community must have Guaidó’s back during Venezuelan crisis | Opinion

Venezuelan President Maduro has maintained his grip on power even though National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, above, was declared interim leader in January.
Venezuelan President Maduro has maintained his grip on power even though National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, above, was declared interim leader in January. Getty Images

Venezuela is experiencing a manmade political, economic and humanitarian crisis that is threatening the stability and security of the Western Hemisphere.

Venezuela’s continued deterioration is affecting our close ally Colombia and threatens to destabilize the entire region. The brutal regimes of Cuba, Russia, Iran and China already are present in Venezuela and are exacerbating the crisis at the expense of the Venezuelan people and U.S. national security interests.

This crisis began under Hugo Chávez, who promised that socialism would bring an end to inequality and poverty. However, systematic corruption and socialist policies established by Chávez laid the foundation for the country’s economic collapse and erosion of democratic institutions. Conditions have worsened dramatically under the rule of Nicolás Maduro.

Venezuela has deteriorated from one of the most prosperous nations in South America to among the most impoverished, violent and corrupt. The International Monetary Fund predicts that inflation in Venezuela will reach upwards of 10 million percent in 2019. According to household surveys, the poverty rate reached 90 percent as of April 2019. Venezuela also ranked 168th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Global Corruption Index. In addition, Venezuelans are living under a dictatorship that violently suppresses dissent and opposition.

In May 2018, Maduro claimed re-election victory following a fraudulent and unconstitutional presidential election. The results were considered illegitimate by the United States and much of the international community because of the violent repression of protesters, lack of credible election monitoring and imprisonment of opposition leaders.

The opposition-controlled, democratically elected National Assembly responded by declaring Maduro’s re-election illegitimate and, in January 2019, appointed National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela until conditions for free and fair elections can be established in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution; 54 countries have also recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela.

Guaidó has galvanized the support of the Venezuelan people and organized a series of anti-government protests calling for Maduro’s dismissal and for the Venezuelan military to join him in a peaceful democratic transition. However, the Maduro regime has continued its onslaught of abuses and increased its reliance on transnational criminal groups and countries such as Cuba and Russia to counter U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan individuals and corrupt sectors of the Venezuelan economy.

We applaud the Trump administration for recognizing the dire situation in Venezuela and taking the bold steps to hold the regime accountable for its actions. However, Venezuelans will continue to flee their homes at unprecedented levels until the regime steps down and the country can be rebuilt. The exodus of people leaving Venezuela is the largest population outflow in Latin America’s history.

The crisis not only harms Venezuelan citizens, it also destabilizes the entire region. Should we, the responsible nations of the Western Hemisphere and the world, let these atrocities worsen, we risk setting a precedent for tolerating the authoritarianism and oppression of current and future leaders in the region with dictatorial ambitions.

It will take pressure from the United States and the increased support of the international community to bring this crisis to an end. To address this situation, we propose the following:

- Call upon Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to invoke Article 99 in regard to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. It states that he can “bring to the attention of the Security Council, any matter, which, in his opinion, may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

- Urge the international community to maintain its support for Guaidó, the legitimate interim president and to ensure his safety and that of all opposition actors and civil society.

- Urge our democratic partners in the international community to impose sanctions to hold corrupt Venezuelan operatives and human-rights abusers accountable for violating the rights and liberties of the Venezuelan people

We must act swiftly and firmly to assure the restoration of peace and stability in the region — and, ultimately, a free and democratic Venezuela.

Mario Díaz-Balart, R-Miami, represents Florida’s 25th congressional district. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville, represents Florida’s 3rd congressional district.

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