CARACAS, March 5 — Venezuelans expect negotiation and dialogue instead of foreign intervention in the country’s political standoff as the opposition leader Juan Guaido returned to Venezuela on Monday.
Guaido flew back to Caracas on Monday after more than a week abroad. He then attended a rally and called for massive protests on Saturday.
While tensions are mounting as Guaido’s return posed a direct challenge to Maduro’s elected government and could end with Guaido being arrested, long-suffering Venezuelans urge the opposing camps to resolve the political conflict in a more peaceful way.
The political conflict between Nicolas Maduro’s elected government and the opposition led by Juan Guaido erupted as Guaido, head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, declared himself interim president during an anti-government rally on Jan. 23, a move which was immediately recognized by the United States.
Maduro, who won 2018 Venezuelan presidential election and was inaugurated for a second term on Jan. 10, then sealed off the country’s border on Feb. 23 to block the U.S. aid shipment.
The aid has been accused as a part of a military coup attempt by Maduro, who agreed to accept humanitarian aid from the European Union via the United Nations (UN) system.
Guaido left Venezuela and went on a tour of regional allies after the U.S. aid shipment failed to cross Venezuelan key borders, defying orders banning him from leaving. Although Maduro said the opposition leader could be put in jail when he returned, Guaido nevertheless came back to Venezuela on Monday and announced a new protest against Maduro in the coming Saturday.
Besides, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) received a letter from Guaido on Monday naming a Harvard University economist as the new representative to the board of the regional lender, whereas the current IADB governor is Oswaldo Javier Perez Cuevas, an official in Venezuela’s finance ministry.
The ongoing political turmoil has hit Venezuela’s economy badly, and the country’s working class is suffering most from the crisis.
“We don’t want to fight with anybody, but we are preparing for resistance,” Ramon de la Hoz, a worker and family man, told Xinhua at his home in the populous Caracas district of El Valle.
The family has had to weather economic hardships, including cutting down on meat and supplementing with more vegetables.
De la Hoz was aware of the attacks on the country’s economy by both domestic and outside forces.
“We saw how Venezuelan business owners stopped producing food, leading to shortages and spiraling inflation,” he said.
In 2016, the government launched the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP) to supply Venezuelan households with staple items. Each month, more than 6 million families receive 15 to 18 kg of rice, beans, pasta, canned goods and other foods.
However, U.S. economic and financial sanctions are taking a toll on the South American country, especially on its healthcare system.
“The government used to buy medicine from Europe, the United States and Asia,” but the restrictions have made it “very expensive to get medication,” said de la Hoz, who along with his wife suffer from hypertension and diabetes.
“We obviously need the medicine, but what the humanitarian aid showed is that when it is offered by the United States to other countries … it comes with an invasion,” he said.
WAY OUT OF CRISIS
In the eyes of Andres Antillano, a sociology professor at the Central University of Venezuela, “there is a dramatic situation of impoverishment” across the country.
Falling oil prices and continued spending on social programs “ended up producing a disaster,” he said.
With sanctions hampering the country’s economy, “it’s very difficult to carry out any policy. I’m not even talking about policies oriented towards the well-being of the majority, but policies to reactivate the economy,” he said.
U.S. interference is making matters worse, said Venezuelan political analyst Luis Quintana, who teaches at the Bolivarian Military University of Venezuela.
To Venezuelans, negotiation and dialogue, instead of a foreign military intervention, is the only way to smooth the waters.
Accompanied by his wife Aracelis, de la Hoz, 61, said he would like to see the two sides sit down to talks.
Quintana took the view that the key to breaking the impasse would be to give voice to those willing to compromise and mediate.
To that end, Quintana highlighted the Montevideo Mechanism for mediation promoted by Uruguay, Mexico and Bolivia, a “regional initiative the government is betting on” to forge a peaceful way out of the crisis.
“The path of negotiation and dialogue, with international accompaniment and support for the political situation, is the only way to dissuade or neutralize, at least in part, the possibility of a foreign military intervention,” said Quintana. – XINHUA