Inside Story Americas

Venezuela at the crossroads

As post-election tensions continue to escalate in Venezuela, we ask where is this political crisis heading.

Last Modified: 18 Apr 2013 10:44
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The conservative government of Spain became the latest to recognise Nicolas Maduro as the president-elect of Venezuela, on Wednesday, following his slender election victory.

"It is very difficult to have a very clear path of how to lead the situation today .... We are under major threats from a regime that knows that they lost elections, and they are trying to stop the Venezuelans to gain power, to actually recover freedom and liberties, which is the purpose of the opposition."

- Diego Arria, former Venezuelan representatitve to the United Nations

He is due to be sworn into office later this week but that is unlikely to stop the protests of the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, and his supporters who are demanding a full recount.

The impasse has led to violence - at least seven people have died and dozens more have been injured since voting day as rival supporters closed ranks behind their leaders.

Clinics set up by Hugo Chavez to provide free healthcare to the poor have been torched.

The opposition has been further emboldened by the Obama administration which refuses to recognise the election result - a position which leaves the US virtually alone in the hemisphere.

"The United States congratulates the Venezuelan people for their participation in the April 14 presidential elections in a peaceful and orderly manner. We call on the Venezuelan government to respect the rights of Venezuelan citizens to peaceful assembly and free speech."

"The opposition has been burning down health clinics, there've been serious incidents of violence .... Diego Arria has been very disingenuous in sort of suggesting that this is all a plot just to make the opposition look bad, and that the international community is leaving the opposition isolated."

- Daniel Hellinger, professor of political science, Webster University 

"We also urge everyone to refrain from violence and other measures that could raise tensions at this difficult moment.The United States notes the acceptance by both candidates for an audit of the ballots, and supports calls for a credible and transparent process to reassure the Venezuelan people regarding the results..." White house spokesman Jay Carney, declared. 

The two sides have blamed the other for the violence.

The opposition and the US have dismissed Maduro's accusation that they are formenting a coup against him. But some argue that there are parallels between current events and the run-up to the brief ouster of Chavez in 2002.

So where is the political crisis heading and what is coming next for the country? 

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses with guests: George Ciccariello-Maher, a writer and political theorist; Daniel Hellinger, a professor of political science from Webster University; and Diego Arria, former Venezuelan representative to the United Nations and ran as a candidate in the opposition primaries last year.

" ... what's really been attempted is to create a situation of uncertainty and thereby instability so for example with these Cuban clinics that were being burned down just because an opposition leader was tweeting that the Cubans were burning the ballot boxes which doesn't make any sense ... it's about a broader effort to destabilise this country, if not to overthrow the government now then certainly to discredit it and defeat it at the polls later."

- George Ciccariello-Maher, political theorist


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