Did Caracas steal money from Russia and has Venezuela’s self-proclaimed leader Juan Guaido got solid backing from the UNSC? RT breaks down an interview with Guaido, looking at whether some of his claims are more than far-fetched.
Speaker of the nation’s parliament and opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself ‘interim president’ of Venezuela last month, challenging the authority of the sitting President Nicolas Maduro. Guaido’s declaration was backed by the US and its allies in Europe and South America. Nations, like China, Russia, Mexico and Iran continue to recognize Maduro as the leader of Venezuela.
The politician spoke exclusively to RT Spanish, partly resorting to some eyebrow-raising statements and ‘facts.’
Endorsed by UN Security Council
Juan Guaido claimed that the UN Security Council (UNSC) not only discussed, but also «endorsed the support for the process which we are doing now.»
On January 26, the UNSC indeed met to deal with the crisis in Venezuela, but it failed to reach a unanimous agreement. As the body noted in a press statement, the council members remained «divided» in their assessment of the situation on the ground. No resolutions in support of Juan Guaido and declaring himself ‘interim president’ of Venezuela were passed or even voted on.
As a matter of fact, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a general statement urging «all actors to lower tensions and pursue every effort to prevent violence and avoid any escalation.»
Sanctions began last week
Going further, the self-proclaimed leader said that «the [dire] humanitarian situation in Venezuela and the sanctions began a week ago.»
«A week ago!» he stressed. The latter is correct if only taking into account the most-recent round of sanctions imposed by the US on January 28, which targeted the government, as well as the financial and energy sector.
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However, Caracas has been facing an array of restrictions since as early as 2014, when a bill authorizing sanctions against Venezuelan officials was signed by then-president Barack Obama. The first round of sanctions came in March the following year.
President Donald Trump stepped up economic pressure on Venezuela in August 2017 by banning financial institutions from dealing with the nation’s government and the state oil company PDVSA. Three more rounds of restrictions against Venezuela’s energy sector were imposed in 2018, including a ban on buying debt from the Venezuelan government.
Sanctions target ‘corrupt officials’
Quizzed on whether foreign sanctions exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, Juan Guaido insisted that they were enacted «against corrupt officials and thieves.»
His claims go against the assessment from the United Nations, though. The sanctions «are effectively compounding the grave crisis affecting the Venezuelan economy, adding to the damage caused by hyperinflation and the fall in oil prices,» UN Special Rapporteur and human rights expert Idriss Jazairy said just two weeks ago.
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A rather grim prediction came out last year as well. A report from the US Congressional Research Service said that analysts are «concerned that stronger sanctions could exacerbate» Venezuela’s economic crisis. It also pointed out that «many Venezuelan civil society groups oppose sanctions that could worsen humanitarian conditions.»
Article 233 & new elections
Juan Guaido strongly maintained that he took on the role of the ‘interim president’ based on Article 233 of the constitution. He claimed he had to do so due to the «lack of elections» as the opposition deems the presidential vote last May illegitimate. Back then, Maduro received nearly 68 percent of the votes.
The Article 233 lays out specific reasons for dismissing the president, such as poor mental or physical health, or a verdict from the nation’s highest court, and doesn’t directly mention elections.
It further says that if the president-elect can’t take office, a new election must be called and held within 30 days. Speaking to RT, Guaido refused to name the exact date of the new vote, despite being asked several times. He only gave a vague promise that it will take place after the end of the «usurpation» of power by the current government.
Millions stolen from Russia
Touching upon the financial issue, Guaido alleged that ‘corrupt’ Venezuelan officials “have stolen $700 million” from the Russian oil and gas giant, Rosneft, which invested in several projects in the South American country.
This claim, again, appears to be far-stretched as it can’t be backed by the ‘victim’ of the supposed heist. According to the Rosneft vice president Aleksandr Krastilevsky, «all payments» from its Venezuelan partner, PDVSA «are being made in accordance with the schedule.»