Phil Gunson

Nota: Este archivo abarca los artículos publicados por el autor desde el 1 de enero de 2008. Para fechas anteriores realice una búsqueda entrecomillando su nombre.

The emergence of a dynamic young leader galvanized the Venezuelan opposition two years ago. Juan Guaido united disparate opposition parties and won recognition as the country’s legitimate president from Donald Trump’s administration and dozens of other governments. His colleagues and the U.S. officials who backed him insisted that a campaign of “maximum pressure”—entailing biting sanctions, international isolation and even veiled threats of military action—would force an end to President Nicolas Maduro’s “usurpation” of power and restore democracy to Venezuela.

That was a miscalculation. Maduro, who cleaned up in elections last December that the opposition called a sham, looks more entrenched than ever.…  Seguir leyendo »

A general view of the city during a second day of blackout in Caracas Mario Bello

El jueves 7 de marzo, alrededor de las cinco de la tarde, las luces se apagaron en Venezuela. En un par de horas, a medida que descendía la noche tropical, alrededor del 90 por ciento del país quedó sumido en la oscuridad por una falla masiva del sistema de generación y transmisión de electricidad, administrado por la empresa estatal Corpoelec.

Los venezolanos, especialmente los que viven fuera de la capital, Caracas, ya se han acostumbrado a apagones prolongados. El ministro de electricidad, un general del ejército, prometió que éste se arreglaría en "tres horas". Pero pronto quedó claro que se trataba de una emergencia nacional, que anunciaba una nueva fase más crítica de la prolongada crisis del país.…  Seguir leyendo »

Juan Guaido, President of Venezuela's National Assembly, reacts during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government. Venezuela January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

What is happening in Venezuela?

On 23 January, amid a mass opposition demonstration that brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, opposition politician Juan Guaidó, chairman of the National Assembly – now the institution with the most democratic legitimacy in the country, given it was elected in Venezuela’s last free and fair elections in 2016 – announced that he was assuming the presidency of the republic, in defiance of President Nicolás Maduro, who was sworn in for a second term only two weeks earlier. Following several days marked by public assemblies, wildcat protests and a small military uprising against Maduro, opposition parties in the Assembly backed Guaidó’s move.…  Seguir leyendo »

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a campaign rally in Caracas, Venezuela on 4 May 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Estas elecciones son para la presidencia de la república y las asambleas regionales de cada uno de los 23 estados de Venezuela. El presidente es la cabeza tanto del Estado como del gobierno, al igual que comandante en jefe de las Fuerzas Militares.

El presidente Nicolás Maduro fue elegido en 2013 para completar el mandato de 6 años de su predecesor, Hugo Chávez, quien murió de cáncer. Ese mandato termina a principios de 2019, pero el gobierno adelantó las elecciones – que generalmente se llevan a cabo en diciembre – para sacar provecho de la debilidad y división de la oposición venezolana.…  Seguir leyendo »

Opposition supporters stand behind a barricade as the Constituent Assembly election was being carried out in Caracas, Venezuela, on 30 July 2017. REUTERS/Christian Veron

Can you explain what Sunday’s vote was about?

On Sunday, the chavista government led by President Nicolás Maduro held a one-sided “election” to a Constituent Assembly – a supremely powerful, 545-seat institution with the power to revise, or even scrap, the country’s constitution. With Venezuela reeling from crippling social and economic crises as well as four months of almost daily opposition-led protests, the government is playing the Constituent Assembly card in a bid to cement its grip on power.

Can the vote be described as a free, fair and democratic election?

In the conventional sense of the word, Sunday’s vote was not an election.…  Seguir leyendo »

Opposition activists and riot police clash during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on May 3, 2017. JUAN BARRETO / AFP

Amid the tumult on the streets of Venezuela, which has cost dozens of lives in the past six weeks, two crucially important, and related, events threaten to spur even greater violence and eclipse all possibility of international engagement aimed at redressing the country’s plight.

One was the announcement on 23 April by Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez that the country would withdraw from the Organization of American States (OAS) in response to what the government of Nicolás Maduro sees as “interference” in Venezuela’s internal affairs. The other move, which immediately incensed protesters and brought widespread foreign repudiation, was a presidential decree of 1 May convening an assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution.…  Seguir leyendo »

Images of the bloodied face of Venezuelan opposition MP Juan Requesens, a vicious, diagonal gash across his left temple, graphically conveyed in recent days the lengths to which the government of President Nicolás Maduro appears prepared to go in order to stay in power. Requesens needed more than 50 stitches after an attack by government supporters during a protest over the decision by the Supreme Court (TSJ) to assume all legislative powers. Although later partially reversed, the ruling in late March by the government-controlled Supreme Court caused dismay across Latin America, and triggered long-awaited moves by Venezuela’s regional neighbours to get tough over its increasingly undemocratic behaviour.…  Seguir leyendo »

Incoming U.S. President Donald Trump’s first foreign-policy surprise could pop up just a few hours’ flying time south of Miami. A tense political standoff between an increasingly desperate population and a dictatorial regime in Venezuela worsened in early January after the opposition-led parliament withdrew recognition from President Nicolás Maduro, who is ruling by decree. Talks between the government and opposition have broken down, and the regime is throwing yet more opposition leaders in jail and threatening to close down the legislature.

This week, the government began issuing bigger bank notes in response to hyperinflation – however even the largest of these, the 20,000-bolívar note, is worth only about US$5.30 on the black market.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Estábamos al borde del abismo”, dice un conocido chiste venezolano. “Pero ahora hemos dado un gran paso adelante”.

Hasta el mes pasado, Venezuela contaba con una vía constitucional clara para resolver la profunda crisis política, económica y social que ha azotado a esta nación de 30 millones de habitantes prácticamente desde la llegada al poder del presidente Nicolás Maduro en 2013: un referendo revocatorio que allanaría el camino para la celebración de nuevas elecciones.

La oposición había obtenido permiso para llevar a cabo una campaña de recolección de firmas a finales de octubre para convocar el referendo. Pero el 20 de octubre, el Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), controlado por el Gobierno, suspendió el proceso.…  Seguir leyendo »

“We were on the edge of the precipice”, runs a well-worn Venezuelan joke. “But now we have taken a great step forward”.

Until last month, Venezuela had one main constitutional route to resolving the deep political, economic and social crisis that has afflicted this nation of 30 million almost since President Nicolás Maduro came to power in 2013: a recall referendum that would open the way to new elections.

The opposition had obtained permission for a signature-gathering drive in late October to trigger the referendum. But on 20 October, the country’s government-controlled National Electoral Council (CNE) suspended the process. The flimsy pretext was a set of simultaneous rulings by regional criminal courts alleging fraud during a previous stage of the process.…  Seguir leyendo »

High on the slopes of the mountain that separates Caracas from the Caribbean, three capital letters, vertically arranged, have recently lit up at night. From most parts of the Venezuelan capital you need binoculars to pick out the word PAZ – “peace” in Spanish. Few people bother to do so. Unlike their neighbours in Colombia, most Venezuelans are more concerned with how to obtain food, medicines and other basic goods. Even if they peer upwards, they might be puzzled by what the government (which put up the sign a month ago) means by “peace”.

If offered relief from the violent crime that has left Venezuela with one of the world’s highest murder rates (around 20,000 homicides a year in a country of 30 million), they would no doubt eagerly embrace the offering.…  Seguir leyendo »

Recientemente, a la figura de Nicolás Maduro le ha hecho sombra el general Vladimir Padrino López, que ostenta a la vez el cargo de ministro de Defensa y comandante operacional de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana (FANB).

El 11 de abril Maduro anunció la creación de un “Comando Presidencial Cívico-Militar” bajo su mando  y el del general Padrino. Su tarea principal es resolver la crítica escasez de alimentos, medicinas y otros bienes de primera necesidad. Todos los ministerios y otras instituciones del Estado están subordinados a este nuevo órgano, cuyas funciones incluyen no solamente la producción, importación, comercialización y el sistema de precios de los productos básicos, sino también la seguridad y defensa de la nación.…  Seguir leyendo »

Venezuela fue, una vez, la excepción democrática latinoamericana. En un continente dominado por dictaduras militares, el sistema bipartidista que se instaló después de la caída del general Marcos Pérez Jiménez en 1958 se presentó como pacífico, próspero y, aparentemente, pluralista. Basado en la distribución de las rentas del petróleo, empezó a agotarse en los años 80 cuando el ingreso per cápita cayó, en medio de una corrupción rampante, de puñaladas por la espalda y cortedad de miras política. A llenar ese vacío se dispuso un cabecilla militar, con un punto mesiánico, y un desdén por la democracia representativa.

Habiendo intentado (y fracasado) la conquista del poder por la fuerza en 1992, Hugo Chávez fue elegido presidente por un amplio margen en 1998 y sobrevivió (aunque por poco) un intento de golpe en su contra, a los tres años de su presidencia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Venezuela was once the democratic exception. In a continent dominated by military dictatorships, the two-party system installed after the fall of Gen. Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958 stood out as peaceful, prosperous and apparently pluralistic. Based on the distribution of oil rents, it began to founder as per capita income slumped in the 1980s, amid a welter of corruption, back-stabbing and political short-sightedness. Into the vacuum strode a military strongman with a messianic streak and a disdain for representative democracy.

Having tried, and failed, to take power by force in 1992, Hugo Chávez was elected president by a large margin in 1998 and survived (albeit barely) a coup attempt against him three years into his presidency.…  Seguir leyendo »

Graffiti depicting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, April 17, 2015.

Venezuela is on the edge. In a stunning defeat of the country’s ruling party—the greatest setback in over ten years for the movement created by the late Hugo Chávez—voters overwhelmingly supported the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. In the early hours of December 7, the election authority (CNE) said the MUD had won 99 of 167 seats, with 22 still to be determined. The MUD, however, claimed 112, which would just be enough to give it two-thirds “super-majority” needed, for example, to convene a constituent assembly.

The outcome, which exceeded the opposition’s most optimistic forecasts, gives the MUD sufficient control of parliament to precipitate a standoff with President Nicolás Maduro and his Chavista supporters.…  Seguir leyendo »

El próximo 6 de diciembre Venezuela enfrentará las elecciones más reñidas que ha visto en lo que va del siglo. De los resultados –y de cómo son recibidos– dependerá, en buena medida, que la grave crisis política, social y económica que padece se resuelva con o sin violencia. Ante la falta absoluta de confianza mútua por parte de gobierno y oposición, la presencia de observadores internacionales de reconocida solvencia profesional es vital. Pero el gobierno se resiste a aceptar cualquier presencia que vaya más allá de la convalidación ciega del proceso. La comunidad internacional debe tomar nota de que una elección sin observación seria e imparcial es garantía de una continua internacionalización de la crisis venezolana, como ya ocurre en la frontera con Colombia.…  Seguir leyendo »