Venezuela´s Global Deadlock

In a country ravaged by a humanitarian crisis due to the unprecedented lack of capacity by governing actors to adequately manage the world’s largest proven oil reserves, the political confrontation is intertwined between domestic, regional and global interests. The decisions by the legitimately elected National Assembly to challenge Maduro´s renewal of the presidential mandate after what several international actors characterized as a fraudulent election in May 2018 has created a deadlock. At a national level, the standoff is between National Assembly proclaimed Interim President Guaidó and the socialist Bolivarian government, with the Armed Forces being the key actor as its pivot may change radically the in-country political scenario. However, the Armed Forces high command is committed to maintaining its political and economic involvement and protagonism beyond the current circumstances, while the middle and lower ranks are increasingly unsatisfied, creating the conditions for a potential schism within the institution. But the involvement of the international community, in the framework of different alignments, is increasing the impact and stakes of the domestic standoff to the level of regional and global confrontation.

On the 26th of January, the United Nations Security Council held a session on Venezuela where the geopolitical struggle on a global level reached its peak. The Russian representative tried to avoid the realization of the session arguing that the continuation of Maduro´s presidency does not represent a threat to global peace and security. But this attempt failed after nine of the council members voted in favor of including Venezuela in the agenda, while four voted against and 2 abstained. The debate involved the participation of Peru and Dominican Republic as non-permanent members of the Council and the attendance of several Latin-American countries. Some, particularly those part of the Group of Lima, supported the Venezuelan opposition´s initiative including the call for new transparent and democratic elections. Others, as in the case of Cuba and Bolivia stood in support of the legitimacy of Maduro´s government. But this regional divide clearly linked to the confrontation between the positions of the United States representatives and Russian officials.

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Venezuela’s historical traditions are among the underlying causes of the current standoff and are frequently overlooked as such. The decision by Juan Guaidó and his colleagues to proclaim him the country’s interim president on January 23 is not the first time this has happened.

Within this context, why is Venezuela becoming a crucial issue in the highest spheres of global geopolitical dispute?

For the United States, its hegemonic influence in Latin-America is at stake. For Russia, its geopolitical interests are being challenged. China, took a similar yet more moderate position than Russia albeit its larger economic interests in Venezuela and in the whole Latin-American region. Before the Security Council debate, the European Union countries threatened Maduro´s government with recognizing Guaidó´s presidency in eight days and to support a call for a new electoral process under more transparent and fair mechanisms. During the session at the Council, France, Great Britain, Germany and Poland supported the need for sorting the standoff by holding new elections.

The United States are clearly concerned by the growing presence of extra-regional powers in Latin America, which threaten their economic and geopolitical interests, while also contribute to an increasing perception of instability and corrosion of hemispheric security. The European Union, without such high stakes in the Venezuelan crisis but as one of the main trade partners of Latin-America is concerned both by the humanitarian crisis and its potential destabilizing effects on the region. Concern that is shared by the countries of the Group of Lima, with the addition of the preoccupation for the need to contain the spread of undemocratic regimes in the Western hemisphere. On the other hand, Russia is holding on tightly to its geopolitical and economic beachhead in Latin-America particularly through the increasing weight of Rosneft in Venezuelan oil production and commercialization as well as a growing military presence, while China and Turkey are unsettled about their financial and trade interests after a substantial investment in resource exploitation in Venezuela. Nonetheless, common to all the actors mentioned above is also the interest in sustaining, renewing or signing military exportation contracts.

The Venezuelan deadlock definitely moved to the global level within the framework of the polarization between the emerging Eurasian pole and the Western block, resuscitating the preoccupations about a renewed and not necessarily ideological Second Cold War, a concern underwritten by numerous Chinese, Russian and Western analysts.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.