World Politics

What's next for Venezuela? Anti-Maduro allies regroup after the fight for humanitarian aid

Key Points
  • On Saturday, at least three people were killed and hundreds more were left injured, Reuters reported, as opposition activists tried to defy a government ban to bring food supplies, hygiene kits and nutritional supplements into the country.
  • It comes at a time when the South American nation is in the midst of the Western Hemisphere's worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.
  • Guaido told reporters in Brazil on Thursday that, despite concerns for his safety, he would return to Venezuela within days.
Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido gestures during the 'Venezuela Aid Live' concert, organized to raise money for the Venezuelan relief effort, at the head of the Tienditas International Bridge in Cucuta, Colombia, on February 22, 2019.
LUIS ROBAYO | AFP | Getty Images

Venezuela's opposition has formally urged the international community to keep all options on the table, after deadly clashes broke out in border towns over the weekend.

On Saturday, at least three people were killed and hundreds more were left injured, Reuters reported, as opposition activists tried to defy a government ban to bring food supplies, hygiene kits and nutritional supplements into the country.

It comes at a time when the South American nation is in the midst of the Western Hemisphere's worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.

VIDEO6:1606:16
Venezuela's Juan Guaidó is going up against Maduro's regime

President Donald Trump has consistently refused to rule out the prospect of military intervention in Venezuela and the country's opposition leader, Juan Guaido, has called on the international community to "keep all options open."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted over the weekend that Washington would "take action against those who oppose the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela."

To be sure, the prospect of U.S.-led military intervention is clearly being signaled as a form of "action."

"I think large-scale U.S. military intervention remains unlikely, though the chances are increasing — that's worrying," Tom Long, assistant professor in the department of politics and international studies at the University of Warwick, told CNBC via email.

"More than the deadly clashes, what I worry could push towards military action is the lack of options remaining for the opposition and its international allies to increase pressure," he added.

Uncharted territory

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro welcomed Juan Guaido on Thursday, in an attempt to shore up international pressure on President Nicolas Maduro. It follows an inconclusive meeting of regional leaders in Colombia earlier this week.

Shortly after the meeting, Guaido told reporters he would return to Venezuela within days — despite grave concerns for his safety.

"Nothing would fragment the regional support for the opposition, or the relative unity of the opposition around Guaido, more than U.S. military intervention," Long said.

Supporters of Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido demonstrate in front of members of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Police standing guard at the Francisco de Paula Santander International Bridge between Cucuta in Colombia and Ureña in Venezuela, on February 23, 2019.
SCHNEYDER MENDOZA | AFP | Getty Images

Pressure is building on Maduro to step down. The socialist leader has overseen a long economic meltdown, marked by hyperinflation, mounting U.S. sanctions and collapsing oil production.

As a result, some three million Venezuelans have fled abroad over the past five years to escape worsening living conditions.

More than 50 countries, including the U.S. and most Latin American and European countries, have now recognized Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

It has thrust the oil-rich, but cash-poor, country into uncharted territory — whereby it now has an internationally-recognized government, with no control over state functions, running parallel to Maduro's regime.

"Guaido will continue pushing… to deliver this humanitarian aid in an effort not to lose momentum and also all the regional actors will continue pushing hard on Venezuela because they want to curb, somehow, the migration crisis," Diego Moya-Ocampos, principal political analyst for Latin America at IHS Markit, told CNBC via telephone.

"I think most efforts are now concentrated to make sure that the aid is delivered and to try to establish better logistics so that the Venezuelan people can indeed have access to the food and to medical supplies," he added.