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Venezeula's President Nicolas Maduro is battling to stay in power amid a direct challenge to his leadership by the head of the country's National Assembly. Juan Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday as anti-government protests raged in the capital Caracas.
President Donald Trump tweeted his support for Guaido soon after the 35-year-old member of the Popular Will party made his announcement. But while regional powers Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Peru are among those joining the US in backing Guaido’s declaration, the Venezuelan military has continued to stand behind Maduro. Russia, Turkey, China, Cuba and Bolivia have also reaffirmed their support for him.
Guaido's bid for the presidency follows Maduro's inauguration as president for a second six-year term on January 10th, eight months after he was re-elected in a poll boycotted by most of his political opponents. The election was variously characterised as unfair or illegitimate by the US, the European Union and the Lima Group of powers in the Americas.
Life has grown ever-harder for Venezuelans over the last year. Food and essential medicine is scarce, security is poor and hyperinflation has left people struggling to cover even the most basic necessities. The country’s inflation rate is projected to soar beyond 10 million percent in 2019, the International Monetary Fund says. All the while people are continuing to leave the country - the UN estimates 5.3 million will have left by the end of the year. Economic sanctions imposed by the US have hit exports of Venezuelan oil and gold.
Maduro says that his government will remain firm against US “interventionism”, in a direct reference to Washington’s role in overthrowing popularly-elected left-wing governments across the Americas. But as he faces one of the biggest crises of his presidency and with the country at a crossroads, what lies in store for millions of Venezuelans? Join the conversation.
On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Tamara Adrian @TamaraAdrian
Member, Venezuela National Assembly
David Smolansky @dsmolansky
Exiled former mayor of El Hatillo municipality in Caracas, Venezuela
Alejandro Velasco @AleVelascoNYU
Historian of Modern Latin America
Venezuela in crisis: How did the country get here? - Al Jazeera