First of all, welcome to my new column. This is going to be a weekly occurrence where I tell you what I think about the issues facing the world on that particular week. It’s not going to be in-depth analyses of the world’s problems, but rather a set of hot takes on whatever interests me when I’m writing it. So, without further ado…
Who is President of Venezuela?
It’s a question that now does not have a single answer. Juan Guaido, a 35 year old qualified engineer and Venezuelan National Assembly member from the centrist “Voluntad Popular” party has declared himself interim President of the South American nation. This move has brought to the world’s attention an unfolding crisis, which has led to abject poverty and shortages in a country which has more oil than Saudi Arabia. Nicolas Maduro, self proclaimed socialist, and President since the death of Hugo Chavez is obviously not happy. He claims that Guaido has no democratic legitimacy, and in saying that at the moment he seems to be right. Guaido staked his claim to the presidency off the back of a phone call with United States Vice President Mike Pence, rather than any election, and given the USA’s tendency for organising coups d’etat in Latin America for its own benefit, Guaido should be viewed with some scepticism. However, Nicolas Maduro’s claim to the Presidency is also built on undemocratic foundations. During the run-up to the 2018 Presidential election, he had several of his opponents sent to prison on flimsy “terrorism” charges, and then moved the election forward by seven months. This election was of course rejected by every democratic nation worth its salt, and after Maduro’s inauguration Guaido made his move, and here we are.
My opinion on the situation is this: it should be clear to everyone that given that Maduro stole the last election and that for this reason he has no mandate to lead the country. For me, endorsing Maduro now is an admittance that you don’t care about democracy so long as the power structures fit your agenda. As for supporters of Guaido, I’m less scornful towards them as his intentions have not yet been made clear. If he can take power and use that newly found power to call free and fair elections, I’m all for him too. If he declares himself permanent leader without the democratic consent of the Venezuelan people, then see what I wrote above about supporters of Maduro . In my mind, therefore, the jury is still out on Juan Guaido. On Nicolas Maduro however I have reached my verdict, and judging by the enormous protests that have been taking place on the streets of Caracas this week, so have many of the Venezuelan people.
In my mind, however, rather than choosing one of the two “Presidents” to “support”, the people of the rest of the world should be advocating for democracy and prosperity in Venezuela, and for it to cease to be the butt of jokes and political insults in more developed countries. To that point, people in more developed countries should stop using Venezuela as the butt of their jokes and political insults, and start advocating for democratic solutions to its problems.
Prespa Agreement becomes law in the Balkans
Somewhat closer to home is Athens, where the Prespa Agreement was ratified by the Greek Parliament last week. This agreement legally brings to an end over a quarter of a century of dispute regarding the name of Greece’s neighbour to the north, soon to be known as the “Republic of North Macedonia”. The agreement was ratified despite large scale protests in both concerned countries and others across the world, some of which were funded by the Russian government.
The issue of the name “Macedonia” is an emotionally charged one, and given that I am not from the region it would be unwise of me to comment on the obviously genuine sentiments which are held by people on both sides, as I do not have a strong emotional connection to the region or its name. That aside, I welcome the fact that an agreement between the two nations has been reached, especially given the fact that the Balkans is a region where so much blood has been shed.
I hope that the agreement can open the door to further cooperation between the two nations, and also with the European Union in the future. North Macedonia will also accede to NATO as part of the agreement, bringing it into line with its neighbours Greece, Albania, and Bulgaria. The cooperation that this such deal will hopefully bring will only be good for the stability and prosperity of the region, in my opinion. With the emotional and terminological connotations put to one side, therefore, this seems like a positive deal for both Greece and its northern neighbour. Whether it is or not with those connotations involved is not for me to judge.
Tom Cleaver writes the column “Here’s what I think…” every Monday for Cyprium News