Venezuela appeared to settle into a new status quo today, as neither the Maduro regime nor the opposition made any sudden moves in the ongoing presidency crisis. The relative calm of today was a stark contrast to yesterday’s unrest, which aside from leaving several people dead throughout the country included and unprecedented declaration from National Assembly deputy Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president.
Guaido’s declaration yesterday gave way to an uneasy night, doubtless spent without sleep by many in the country who might have expected explosive developments, like a military insurrection against Maduro. However, no such development came.
Earlier today, Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez attempted to put that expectation to rest by making a televised address during which he voiced the military’s support for Maduro and decried Guaido’s declaration.
Below, a clip of Padrino Lopez’s address:
Padrino Lopez: … very dangerous. I repeat to the people of Venezuela: [Guaido declaring himself interim president] is very dangerous for our integrity, for our social peace. I want to alert the people of Venezuela that there is a coup d’etat underway against our institutions, against our democracy, against our constitution, against president Nicolas Maduro, the legitimate president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
I’m going to read a statement from the National Bolviarian Armed Forces that captures the sentiment of all of the men and women of our institution. I’m going to read it so that our National Bolivarian Armed Forces’ position before these serious events that are happening in Venezuela is clear….
Padrino Lopez went on to read the statement, which accused the “ultra right wing” opposition of staging “a vulgar coup d’etat“, and that:
…. the National Bolivarian Armed Forces, loyal to the legacy inherited from the liberator Simon Bolivar, will never accept a president imposed from the shadow of obscure interests or self-proclaimed from the margin of the law.
The statement was the strongest show of support to come from the minister since Guaido’s proclamation yesterday.
Guaido Leaves Door Open for Amnesty to Maduro
Interim president Juan Guaido would not rule out the possibility of granting Maduro amnesty for his actions if it meant “restoring constitutional order” in Venezuela. He made the comments during an interview with a journalist named Patricia Janiot.
Guaido would not say that Maduro would fall outside the scope of a proposed amnesty law, the purpose of which is to give regime officials a way to abandon Maduro and work towards establishing a political transition in the country.
Guaido had the exchange regarding amnesty for Maduro starting at the 16:55 mark in the interview:
Janiot: You’re offering soldiers amnesty as a way to open the path to a democratic solution. Are you also offering amnesty to Nicolas Maduro?
Guaido: Well, we’d have to go over that, but he’s also a public official. Unfortunately he’s a dictator, and he’s unfortunately responsible for the victims [that we saw] yesterday in Venezuela, even though there were more than seven million–almost eight–we really did lose track of how many people were in the streets of Venezuela.
After these protests came to a peaceful end, the colectivos [pro-regime militias] attacked. They kidnapped some people, even in a church in Maturin. They kidnapped some people in Barinas. Today, unfortunately, there are more than 18 murder [victims]. So there’s a clear responsibility there.
And he [Maduro] should end up–clearly, at this transcendental moment for Venezuela, what seems to be a clear inflection point for our country–yes, if this were to achieve that situation which we all want which is a [move] towards a very calm transitional government.
Janiot: But is amnesty on the table for Nicolas Maduro in exchange for leaving power?
Guaido: Well, in times of transitions similar things have happened. It happened in Chile [in 1980s], it happened in Venezuela in ’58. We cannot discount any element, but we have to look firmly towards the future, and above all we have to be firm in tending to the humanitarian crisis.
When asked if the amnesty would expend “to his cabinet, his main collaborators”, Guaido said (at around the 19:00 mark):
… that amnesty is on the table for anyone who is willing to put themselves on the side of the constitution to restore constitutional order.
When asked what the “ideal scenario” would be for an end to the crisis, Guaido said:
I think that the three phases that we’ve determined, that we’re building, are an end to [Maduro’s usurpation, i.e., his resignation] to bring an end to this period of institutional uncertainty in Venezuela, [the formation] of a transitional government, and [the holding] of free elections. I think that’s the ideal scenario for Venezuela, and to quickly achieve governability in Venezuela, [and to allow us to] tend to the emergency and re-institutionalize to be able to move forward and progress quickly.
The National Assembly approved the amnesty law on January 15. The law extends to any civilian or military government official who takes an active role in restoring constitutional order in Venezuela.
NGOs Count 26 Dead in Week’s Protests, 328 Arrests
The Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social (Venezuelan Civil Conflict Watch, OVCS) issued an updated list of fatalities during the week’s protests, which began during the overnight hours on Monday.
According tot he OVCS, 26 Venezuelans have died during protests this week. The OVCS stressed that its tally only included individuals whose identities have been confirmed, which suggests that the actual toll may be higher.
When broken down by state, the fatalities are distributed in the following way:
- Capital District (Caracas): 7
- Bolivar: 5
- Barinas: 3
- Portuguesa; 3
- Tachira: 3
- Monagas: 2
- Amazonas: 2
- Yaracuy: 1
For its part, the Foro Penal Venezolano (Venezuelan Penal Forum, FPV), an NGO that provides legal services for victims of political persecution, announced that it had tallied 328 arrests during the week’s protests. The majority occurred on Wednesday, when 284 people were detained during demonstrations.
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