Guatemalan President-Elect Alejandro Giammattei. Photo credit: Luis Echeverría / Reuters
By Paul Dobson
Venezuela’s authorities denied Guatemala’s president-elect entrance at Caracas’ Simon Bolivar International Airport on Saturday (12 October 2019).
Conservative politician Alejandro Giammattei was due to hold a series of events with Venezuela’s self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido. He won 58 percent of the votes in Guatemala’s August election, and is due to assume office in January. The Central American country has recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.
Giammattei was refused entrance for not possessing an official invitation or credentials, or having coordinated the visit with the Guatemalan embassy in Venezuela, according to a Caracas Foreign Ministry statement. He was returned on the first available flight.
The statement added that the president-elect was also travelling on an Italian standard passport rather than a Guatemalan diplomatic one, which “caught the attention” of border control staff. An Italian and a Spanish citizen who accompanied him were also refused entrance.
Opposition leader Guaido slammed the episode, describing it as “an absurd, unnecessary diplomatic aggression without precedent.” The planned joint agenda with Giammattei is, however, due to go ahead despite the Guatelaman’s absence.
For his part, Giammattei sent a message to Guaido, reaffirming his support for the opposition leader and clarifying that he is not planning on establishing diplomatic relations with the elected Maduro government once in office.
Caracas congratulates Ecuadorian people on “victory against IMF”
Bilateral tensions also grew between Venezuela and Ecuador in recent days, with President Nicolas Maduro congratulating the Ecuadorian people on their “historic victory against the IMF,” after Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno announced he was walking back an IMF-recommended austerity package.
Maduro’s government further accused the government of Lenin Moreno of “savage police repression” against the protestors, comparing the anti-IMF protests to Venezuela’s 1989 “Caracazo” which saw up to 3,000 people killed by state security forces.
On Sunday, Moreno announced that the proposed austerity measures will be “revised,” following nearly two weeks of protests which have paralysed the country. The measures included fuel price hikes up to 123 percent and major setbacks in labour rights.
Maduro sets sights on “rescuing” National Assembly
Addressing domestic politics, Maduro called for Chavista forces to begin efforts to “rescue” the country’s National Assembly (AN) from opposition forces. The legislature’s term ends in December 2020 and elections will take place some time in 2020.
Speaking Saturday, Maduro urged his United Socialist Party (PSUV) to “begin campaigning right now” for the upcoming elections.
“We must beat those [opposition deputy] sellouts, conspirators, corrupt leaders (…) they want a fight, we will give them a fight,” Maduro told followers in Nueva Esparta State.
The anti-government coalition won 112 of the 167 seats in the assembly in 2015. Some of its approved legislation has included privatisations of state-run industries and social programs, calls for increased foreign unilateral sanctions and military intervention against Venezuela, and the reactivation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance. Venezuela’s Supreme Court has struck down most of the legislation, arguing that it is unconstitutional.
The National Assembly has also been in contempt of court since 2016 following an escalating dispute with judicial authorities concerning the incorporation of three deputies from the Amazonas region under investigation for electoral irregularities. Venezuela’s Supreme Court declared the move illegal and all subsequent decisions “null and void,” with pro-government deputies abandoning the body.
The Venezuelan government signed an agreement with opposition factions in September which brought the return of PSUV deputies to the AN. Other Chavista parties are yet to decide if they will follow suit, with some calling for the dissolution of the body.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.
The above article was previously published on the Venezuelanalysis website.