Maduro v Guaido: Who is backing whom amid crisis in Venezuela

Self-proclaimed interim President of Venezuela Juan Guaido (left) and elected leader Nicolas Maduro are currently locked in a struggle, with public protests calling for free elections.
Self-proclaimed interim President of Venezuela Juan Guaido (left) and elected leader Nicolas Maduro are currently locked in a struggle, with public protests calling for free elections.PHOTOS: EPA-EFE

CARACAS (AFP) - Venezuela has been receiving massive attention from the international community since National Assembly chief Juan Guaido declared himself acting interim president of Venezuela.

Guaido on Monday (Jan 28) called for a new round of protests Wednesday and Saturday against elected leader Nicolas Maduro and for free elections.

In a video posted on Twitter, Guaido called for a “peaceful” strike Wednesday to paralyse the country followed by a “big national and international rally” on Saturday.

With Maduro hanging on to power, these are their respective key supports, inside and outside the OPEC member:

MADURO

Military

The Venezuela armed forces are considered the backbone of the government, and on Thursday senior military officers reaffirmed support for Maduro, claiming that there was an effective "coup" under way.

Of 32 Cabinet ministers, nine are from the military and run portfolios such as Defense, Interior, Agriculture and the intelligence service, as well as state oil giant PDVSA, which contributes 96 percent of the country's income.

They also control a television station, a bank and a vehicle assembly plant, among other companies.

But their support has come under some threat. The military attache of Venezuela in Washington, Colonel Jose Luis Silva, announced Saturday that he no longer recognizes Maduro as legitimate president, and urged his "military brothers" to back Guaido.

International creditors and allies

China, Venezuela's biggest creditor with some $20 billion dollars owed, said Thursday it opposed "external interference" after the United States and some allies recognized Guaido as interim leader.

Venezuela's number two creditor, Russia, also backs it militarily: in December it sent two bombers and some 100 officers to Caracas for joint exercises. President Vladimir Putin called Maduro to express his "support." Countries such as Turkey, Cuba, Bolivia, Uruguay and Mexico - as well as Iran and North Korea - continue to recognize the 56 year-old Maduro.

Justice

Venezuela's Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) supports the Maduro regime. Court justices were chosen by the pro-government National Assembly in December 2015, just days before the opposition took control of the legislature.

Since 2016 the top court has declared the opposition controlled legislature in contempt and voided all of its actions. The court on Thursday reiterated its support for Maduro regime.

Venezuela's top prosecutor, Attorney General Tarek William Saab, also is a Maduro loyalist.

 
 
 
 

National Constituent Assembly

Maduro convened the staunchly pro-government assembly after four months of opposition protests that left about 125 dead in 2017. It has absolute powers, and serves as the de facto legislature. the opposition says it was created illegally.

Electoral authority

The National Electoral Council (CNE), in charge of running elections, is chaired by the openly pro-government Tibisay Lucena. Under her management several opposition parties have been disqualified, and on Thursday it issued a statement endorsing Maduro.

Rulings by pro-government judges and the CNE thwarted opposition efforts to hold a referendum to revoke Maduro's presidency in 2016, a vote allowed under the constitution.

Opposition parties refused participate in the last elections, including the May 2018 presidential vote in which Maduro was reelected, saying there were no guarantees of impartiality. They say Maduro was elected through fraud.

GUAIDO

International support

The United States, along with several Latin America and European Union countries, refused to recognize Maduro's reelection.

When Guaido proclaimed himself acting interim president US President Donald Trump quickly recognized him. Other countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Australia, quickly followed. On Sunday Israel said it would recognize Guaido as president.

Six European countries - Spain, France, Germany, Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands - on Saturday demanded that either Venezuela call elections within eight days or they would recognize Guaido as interim leader.

Some European countries such as Greece still support Maduro.

The head of the Washington-based Organization of American States, Uruguayan Luis Almagro, also gave his support to Guaido.

National Assembly

The opposition-controlled National Assembly was elected in 2015, when a coalition of opposition parties handed the leftist regime its biggest electoral defeat ever.

After taking office on January 5, Guaido, 35, began to press for a "transitional government" and new elections, calling on the military to break with the government in exchange for an amnesty.

Justice in exile

A Venezuelan Supreme Court in exile, with members appointed by the National Assembly, on Wednesday welcomed Guaido's "will" to take over as acting leader pending new elections.