What’s going on in and around Venezuela and Georgia’s stance
24 January, 2019
What’s going on in and around Venezuela and Georgia’s stance
Brief explainer Following the US Administration’s and then American countries’ statements on recognizing Juan Guaido’s interim presidency in Venezuela, Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani in his today’s early morning Tweet and later Georgian MFA in its official statement have recognized Venezuelan opposition leader, the National Assembly’s chair, Juan Guaido as interim leader of his country.

Georgian Foreign Ministry expressed hope that the political process in Venezuela will continue peacefully and the country’s legitimate government will join
the international community and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other nations. (FYI: Venezuela is one of the five countries which have recognized two occupied regions of Georgia - Abkhazia and Tskhinvali as independent republics).

Georgian PM Mamuka Bakhtadze has also shown support to Juan Guaido, who declared himself as an interim president of Venezuela.

“Georgia recognizes Juan Guaido as Interim President of Venezuela. We express hope that the Assembly of Venezuela will form an interim government, prepare free and fair elections and ensure peaceful transition of power. Georgia supports the courageous people of Venezuela in their fight for democracy” - Mamuka Bakhtadze tweeted.
Georgian PM Mamuka Bakhtadze

Earlier in this month, official Tbilisi also shared the position of the international community and stated that the country did not recognize the legitimacy of Maduro as the president of Venezuela.

Interestingly, one of the leaders of the youth wing of the united opposition of Venezuela, Herman Diaz in the last year’s an interview with the Georgian Public Broadcaster said that after the overthrow of the Maduro regime, recognition of the occupied Tskhinvali and Abkhazia independence should be abolished.

However, the world leaders are not unanimous in recognizing Guaido as an interim leader. So far the division looks like this:

Juan Guaido’s presidency is recognized by: USA; Canada; thirteen members of the 14-member Lima Group (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia); Organization of American States (The union includes all 35 independent countries in the Americas. Venezuela withdrew from organization in 2017, accusing it of meddling in its internal affairs).

Meanwhile, Maduro’s legitimacy is supported by Russia, Turkey, China, Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba and of course separatist de facto governments from Georgia.

European response was quite cautious.

German FM Heiko Maas said: We call on all actors in Venezuela to exercise prudence and renounce violence. In a statement released on January 24, the EU said that civil rights, freedom and the safety of Juan Guaido all need to be "observed and respected." The European Union's foreign policy head, Federica Mogherini, called for free and credible elections. The EU did not recognize Guaido as president.

However, Polish Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council wrote in his Tweeter account: unlike Maduro, Guaido has a democratic mandate from Venezuelan citizens because he was elected to Venezuela's parliament. Tusk called for a united response from EU countries that supports democratic forces.

Also, French leader, Emmanuel Macron hailed the courage of protesters and tweeted that 'Europe supports restoration of democracy' in Venezuela following the "illegitimate election" of Nicolas Maduro.
Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani

Ongoing confrontation could easily lead to a greater calamity for the Venezuelan people. Much depends on which way the Venezuelan military sides itself. At present, Venezuela’s generals may be backing the current regime. But will the lower ranks remain loyal to the Maduro greatly depends on internal political developments in the country and people of Venezuela.

The question is - does the US have any plans for further strengthening Guaido’s presidency and overthrowing Maduro? President Trump’s administration is intimating that it will back its political move with muscle. "All options (are) on the table," Donald Trump told media on January 23 when asked if he might use military force to ensure the outcome he wants in Venezuela. "All options, always, all options are on the table."

The US is so far firm that over its diplomats in Venezuela, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday that the US does not recognize Maduro as president and therefore believes he does not have the legal authority to expel US Foreign Service officers. Pompeo urged the Venezuelan military and security forces to "continue protecting the welfare and well-being of all Venezuelan citizens, as well as US and other foreign citizens in Venezuela".

Meanwhile, Russia criticized those in the international community who "seek a change in power" and said any US military intervention would be "catastrophic".

Some analysts reckon that despite the White House position, which will likely lead to further US sanctions on Venezuela, so far there are no clear signs that Maduro will leave soon. In his impassioned address from the presidential palace on Wednesday, Maduro called on his military to stay united. And his inner circle, for now, was defiant.

Who's Juan Guaido?

Up until this month, when he became president of the National Assembly, the 35-year old was quite unknown. Guaido's declaration came after the Venezuelan National Assembly on January 22 announced its takeover of the executive power. Calling on Venezuelans to protest, the body demanded the establishment of a "transitional government" to organize new elections. Venezuelan opposition sympathizers had been urging Guaido to assume the presidency since Maduro was inaugurated for a second term earlier in January following a widely-boycotted election last year, marred by widespread allegations of vote rigging. He had previously said he was willing to replace Maduro if he had the support of the military, with the aim of then calling for free elections. His declaration on Wednesday came amid mass anti-Maduro demonstrations street protests.
Juan Guaido. Photo courtesy: DW

The Venezuelan opposition took power there after elections in 2015, but in 2017 Maduro set up a separate body, the constituent assembly, which is filled with his supporters. Both chambers are meeting and passing laws but the Maduro’s constituent assembly is the only one whose laws are being enacted by the government.

Reportedly, Leopoldo Lopez, Venezuela's most popular opposition leader is seen as the ‘creator’ of Guaido. Currently, Lopez is under house arrest and considered by his supporters to be a political prisoner.

Protests against Maduro continue in Venezuela. The people say they are fed up with catastrophic inflation rate, a shortage of basic good and a huge migration crisis that has divided many families.

(International media sources were used for this report)

Ghia Abashidze

Political analyst

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