On Monday, May 13th the AAU Student Council in partnership with the Casla Institute hosted an international debate, perspectives of change in a divided society, moderated by AAU's Eva Rivera in Spanish with simultaneous translation to English and Czech.
Since 2016, a dire humanitarian crisis has ravaged Venezuela. Millions have fled the Latin American country, and seemingly endless protests, headed by the internationally recognized Juan Guaido, have rocked the government of Nicolás Maduro, who still maintains support from the military establishment. To gain some international insight into the crisis, Anglo-American Univesity partnered with the Casla Institute to host the panel: “Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela: Perspectives of change in a divided society.” The two panelists, Tamara Sujú, the Diplomatic Representative of the Juan Guaidó Government and human rights lawyer, and Josef Opatrný, the Deputy Director of the Ibero-American Institute of Charles University in Prague, spoke about their perspective of the crisis.
Venezuela is experiencing the “worst crisis the American continent has lived through in the last few decades,” said Sujú, who first came to Prague under Vaclav Havel in 2007. She rattled off statistics: more than 3.4 million have left the country since 2015; three million suffer from malnutrition; 350,000 children are at risk of death due to malnutrition; 75 percent of emergency hospitals are closed; diseases such as malaria, polio, and yellow fever have returned and vaccines are lacking, and many families are eating one meal a day. Sujú blames the Maduro government for the lack of affordable utilities and essential medicines. “Imagine living [without electricity and water] that’s how Venezuelans live,” she said.
In late April, Guaido’s attempt to topple Maduro failed to materialize after top military leaders refused to defect to the side of the protestors, which has prompted some calls for more U.S involvement. “U.S. intervention would be a disaster for the continent,” said Opatrný. A military intervention would damage the reputation of the government's opposition party, Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), and would further damage the U.S.’s relationship with other Latin American countries, he claimed. The professor suggested mass protests are more likely to take down the government. “One day…they will get Maduro.”
Nevertheless, the Sujú believes support from the Trump administration is vital to Guaido. “The support by Trump’s government for us is very important,” she said. She believes the Trump administration is helping to create the conditions for Maduro's eventual removal, with economic sanctions and recognition for Guaido playing a major role in the administrations current effort. However, some critics have remained skeptical of economic sanctions, claiming that they often fail to topple regimes and only prolong economic crises.
Maduro has also accused Guaido and the protestors as being agents of U.S. imperialism and the “coup-mongering far right,” which some say is a precursor to conflict. Sujú disagrees. “I don’t see a civil war happening in Venezuela,” she said. She sees the conflict as one-sided – the Venezuelan people versus the unpopular Maduro government. Although she admits that the colectivos, armed pro-government paramilitary groups, could still rebel against Guaido.“They know justice will get to them when Maduro leaves,” she said.
However, the international community should come to the aid of Venezuela, as she sees the suffering of the Venezuelan people, prevalently from hunger or lack of medicine, as crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Court has indeed moved forward with investigations into the Maduro government for possible violations of international law, including torture.
If Guaido manages to claim power, expect sweeping changes. Sujú suggested the new government would stabilize the economy, start multilateral cooperation, increase oil production, end price controls and economic centralism, and attract investment by reimplementing legal state guarantees against expropriation.
“Don’t call it a revolt, call it a recognition of the constitutional president,” Sujú concluded.
Report By: Ben Goings
Click here to view more photos from the event: AAU Venezuela Debate
Publication date: May 14, 2019