Letter from the Staff
Welcome! We are looking forward to hosting you for this year's SAMUN conference. This background guide will hopefully serve as a helpful reference for your research.
This committee will take place in the current time, starting on April 25, 2020. Your goals will be to find a peaceful solution to the challenges facing Venezuela right now and come to a unique, diplomatic solution to the expansive issues facing the country. The decisions you all make will have extreme effects on millions of people all around the world.
You each represent a foreign minister or the equivalent for countries around the world. You will have to tread carefully while navigating the various crises which will have direct effects on global politics, while keeping in mind how each country, and yours in particular, can profit. Good luck!
A faulty election in May 2018. A dispute over who the current president is. An acting president who has been declared by his own country as a “usurper of justice.” The rest of the world divided in support of the two people vying for power. A food crisis which has reached a breaking point. A military force which is extinguishing protest at all cost. This is Venezuela in 2020 -- a country fraught with constitutional unrest. This committee will be in real time, starting on April 24, 2020. In it we hope to find a peaceful solution to the problems facing Venezuela right now -- and come to an original diplomatic solution to the immense issues facing Venezuela today.
Please reach out and email us with any questions:
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the cities that constitute the Venezuela of today suffered considerable neglect. The Viceroyalties of New Spain (an integral territorial entity of the Spanish Empire, established by Habsburg Spain during the Spanish colonization of the Americas) and Peru showed a greater intrigue in their nearby silver and gold mines than the remote agricultural societies of Venezuela. And so responsibility for Venezuela shifted between the two viceroyalties. During the 18th century, a second Venezuelan society was formed along the coast, with the establishment of cocoa plantations manned by large importations of African slaves. The Province of Venezuela came under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of New Grenada, established in 1717. The Province then became the Captaincy General of Venezuela in 1777. Throughout the century, the Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas (a Spanish Basque trading company in the 18th century, which had a monopoly on Venezuelan trade. It was renamed in 1785 the Royal Philippine Company) stimulated the Venezuelan economy, especially in promoting the cultivation of cacao beans, which became Venezuela's predominant export. Like no other Spanish American dependency, Venezuela had more contacts with Europe through the British and French islands in the Caribbean. In an almost clandestine, although still legal, manner, Caracas had become an intellectual powerhouse. Beginning in 1721, it had its own university, which taught Latin, medicine, and engineering, apart from the humanities.
In 1808, word of Spain's turmoils in the Napoleonic Wars soon reached Caracas. And on July 5th, 1811, seven of the ten provinces of the Captaincy General of Venezuela declared their independence in the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence. The First Republic of Venezuela was lost in 1812 following the 1812 Caracas earthquake and the Battle of La Victoria (1812).
But only on the 19th of April, 1810, did its city council decide to follow the example set by the Spanish provinces two years prior. In Venezuela, officially a province of Gran Colombia, José Antonio Páez, backed by the former mantuanos (and now by the ruling group in Caracas), initiated the separation of Venezuela in 1826. In 1828, in view of the political opposition he was faced with, both in Venezuela and in New Granada, and because Colombia had started to disintegrate, Símon Bolívar named himself dictator.
Following the Venezuelan Wars of Independence (1810-1823), part of the Spanish-American wars of Independence, Venezuela initially won independence from the Spanish Empire as a part of Gran Colombia. Internal tensions led to the dissolution of Gran Colombia in 1830–31, with Venezuela declaring independence in 1831. For the rest of the nineteenth century, independent Venezuela saw a range of caudillos (strongmen) compete for power. Leading political figures included José Antonio Páez, Antonio Guzmán Blanco and Cipriano Castro.
The beginning of the 20th century saw a handful of notable international crises: The Venezuela Crisis of 1895 under Joaquín Crespo (a dispute with Britain over Guayana Esequiba) and the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903 (Venezuela's refusal to pay foreign debts) under Cipriano Castro.
Juan Vicente Gómez was the de facto ruler of Venezuela from 1908 until his death in 1935. He was elected president on three occasions during this time and for the rest of the era ruled as a military strongman. After the discovery of petroleum in Lake Maracaibo in 1918, Gomez granted many concessions to foreign oil companies which won him the support of the United States and Europe and was pivotal for Venezuela in transforming the basis of its economy away from a dependence on agricultural exports. Venezuela became central to the expanding international oil industry and a new consideration in global policy making. By 1928 Venezuela was the world’s leading oil exporter and by the late 1930s the third-leading oil producer, behind the United States and the Soviet Union.
1930-1960 was a turbulent time for Venezuela. Marked by three coup d’etats and ten years of military dictatorship, this period created lasting instability. In 1945, a portion of the Venezuelan military with the aid of the Democratic Action Party committed a coup d'etat against President Isais Angarita. The Democratic Action Party remained in power for the subsequent three years during a period known as El Trienio Adeco. In 1947, The Democratic Action Party was formally elected to office during what is widely considered to be Venezuela’s first free and fair elections; however, it was soon removed by a coup in 1948. This coup, headed by Carlos Chalbaud, led to ten years of military dictatorship from 1948 to 1958. During the majority of this time the government was controlled by a variety of military personnel until it finally held presidential elections in 1952. The actual results of these elections were deemed unacceptable by the government, which decided to falsify them and install one of their leaders, Marcos Pérez Jiménez, as president. His government was characterized by its strong belief in state capitalism. Under him Venezuela's debt grew more than 25 times, going from 175 million to more than 4,500 million bolivares in just 5 years. His rule was ended by another coup in 1958 which was led by Admiral Wolfgang Larrazabal who gained control until the December 1958 elections.
After winning the December elections of 1958, Rómulo Betancourt of the Democratic Action Party (AD) was voted into office. Betancourt, who had served previously under El Trienio Adeco (1945-1948), adopted a moderate position during his second presidency. However his views towards foreign policy were more extreme as seen through his promotion of the “Betancourt Doctrine.” This idealized policy attempted to break relations with dictatorial governments. Given that Venezuela had established trade with several dictatorships in Latin America, the doctrine was virtually unfeasible. Upon seeing the unstable and unsustainable agricultural system in place at the time, Betancourt introduced the Agrarian Reform Law of 1960. The reform redistributed privatized land to over 200,000 families and was one of the defining moments of his presidency. Other reforms implemented during Betancourt’s presidency include further modernization and industrialization. In 1961, the administration also introduced a constitution which split the government into legislative, judicial and executive branches. There was opposition to the reform however. On June 24, 1960, Betancourt was wounded after an assasination attempt led by Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo. The Revolutionary Left Movement which had split from AD, joined forces with the Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN) and began an insurgency backed by Fidel Castro of Cuba. In 1964, Betancourt left office.
The following administration of Raúl Leoni (1964-1969) saw further cultural development and implemented the construction of public works but faced several guerrilla attacks during the five years. These attacks were eventually ended within the government of Rafael Caldera (1969-1974) who reached an agreement with several leftist movements, allowing reintegration into the Venezuela politics.
During the first presidency of Carlos Andrés Pérez (1974-1979), Venezuela experienced an enormous oil boom which saw currency peak against the US dollar. From 1972 to 1974, Venezuelen revenues quadrupled, the global price of oil increasing from $3 to $12. This was largely due to the Middle East oil embargo of 1973. Pérez promised his people that he would be able to fully develop the country within just a few years through a project named “Gran Venezuela.” Included in this plan was the nationalization of the oil industry which was accomplished in 1976. However, the boom also produced several negative side effects including immense inflation and indebtedness.
These negative effects continued to worsen in the late 1970s and 1980s. When Luis Herrera Campis was elected to office in 1979, the country was facing debt and owed loans to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Corruption only increased during the presidency of Jaime Lusinchi (1984-1989). The economy stagnated and by the end of the 1980s, Venezuela was reportedly bankrupt.
In the early 1990s, Venezuela was governed by the Democratic Action party under Carlos Andrés Pérez, who ran on an anti-austerity and anti-neoliberal platform. During his campaign he publicly stated that the International Monetary Fund’s structural adjustment recipes as "la-bomba-sólo-mata-gente" – the bomb that only kills people. However, as a consequence of a severe debt crisis and lack of international currency reserves, he signed a letter of intent with the IMF to execute neo-liberal austerity measures such as privatization and the dismantling of the public assistance programs. This made him incredibly unpopular, and in 1992 he was the subject of two unsuccessful coups, the first lead by the future president Hugo Chávez, at the time an officer in the Venezualan military and a long-time member of the Movimiento Bolivariano Revolucionario 200(MBR200). After the failure of the first coup, Chávez was given a minute on national TV before his imprisonment, where he apologized for the harm caused, but defended his goals of reform and stated that he was putting down his weapons for now. This speech caused him to become an icon of national resistance to the highly disliked regime. In 1993 however, Pérez was impeached for illicit appropriation of 17 million USD by the Venezualan Congress. His replacement, Rafael Caldera freed the arrested dissidents, including Hugo Chávez, as one of his campaign promises. However, he, like Pérez, went back on his anti-IMF position from his campaign to institute neo-liberal economic measures such as privatization of the state oil company, which provided over half of Venezuelan government revenue. However, because of the massive unpopularity of these moves, in November 1996 1.3 million workers walked off the job in a general sector public strike to protest these moves. This caused the Venezuelan congress to authorize him to rule by decree.
In December 1996 the MBR200 members voted to participate in the 1998 elections as their own party, creating a new organization known as Movimiento Quinta República, or MVR. This party was an amalgamation of numerous anti-establishment parties, and endorsed Hugo Chávez as their candidate. He ran on a platform of reorienting the oil industry, including ending the privatization of the state oil company and redistributing oil income to benefit the lower class. His platform also included significant crackdowns on corruption and tax evasion, and pursuing an economic course independent of the US, which he characterized as a ‘third option’ to the ‘savage neo-liberalism’ of the US and to communism. In 1999, as Chávez assumed the presidency and began his constitutional reforms, an economic crisis rocked Venezuela.
The crisis was driven by a combination of historically low oil prices and skyrocketing interest rates on Venezuela's massive debts, and caused a severe lack of resources for Chávez’s massive populist programs. In attempt to rectify this and stem the bleeding, oil production at the state owned oil company was cut in an attempt to raise oil prices, and Chávez lobbied fellow OPEC members to cut their own production as well. At the same time, he continued to work on improving the fairness of tax collections and auditing, particularly for large corporations. He did this in an attempt to stem capital flight from Venezuela, however by 2002 capital flight from Venezuela had more than doubled from $4 billion to $9 billion. In 1999, the new constitution was ratified, and among many other changes, merged both houses and stripped many of its former powers; it also created a new office, that of the Public Defender, whose job was to defend the people and check the power of the (now less restricted) President. It also provided for not only the usual human rights, but also the ‘social rights’ of employment, housing, and health care.
In 2000, Chávez was reelected, and in 2001 he gained the right to rule by decree for one year from the National Assembly. He used this to institute 49 laws crucial to his plans. The most high-profile of these was his Land Law, which instituted penalties for unused arable land, and encouraged redistribution of that land to qualified farmers. It also granted land titles to people living in the barrios surrounding the major cities. It also provided for limited forced(but compensated) redistribution of unused arable land. Significant opposition grew against the ‘cubanization’ of Venezuela in 2001 and 2002, and drove large protests. Their key demand was amendment or repeal of the 49 laws, but the government refused to consider amendments, and large strikes ensued. In 2002, a successful coup was executed by a large group of pro-military officers, and in the aftermath they imprisoned Chávez on a military base while they repealed all of his measures, including dissolving his government bodies and repealing his new constitution. They rapidly received US government recognition, but supporters of Chávez in the military encouraged massive demonstrations and successfully staged a counter-coup. In 2003 and 2004, a recall petition occurred, but it was plagued with accusations of a votes-for-citizenship scheme to raise the threshold for the vote to occur, as well as the Chávez government punishing signatories of the petition. Though the vote did occur, it failed with 59% voting No. From 2004-2005, the government focused on expanding their foreign relations, and shifting their military away from any dependence on American arms, instead buying from Russia and China primarily. Chávez made an effort to donate heating oil to the US poor in 2005, but many states refused to accept it. In 2006, Chávez was attempting to get the constitution that he had already rebuilt amended to remove term limits. Venezuela also attempted to win the non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, but was defeated by Panama, though the US supported Guatemala. He was also successfully reelected in 2006, and gave a now-famous speech to the UN General Assembly, famously calling George W. Bush the Devil. In 2009, Chávez succeeded in removing term limits. An OAS report stated that while there were significant advances in literacy and the eradication of poverty, there were also severe issues with lack of freedom of expression and human rights violations. In 2012 Chávez was again reelected, but he died 5 months after. The country became the largest weapons importer in the world, and owed Russia $7.2B for purchased arms. In 2013 Nicolás Maduro was elected, and sought the power to rule by decree to fight what he called, “An economic war.” Later that year, he ordered the military to take over local appliance stores, and the military announced that it had confiscated 3500 tons of subsidized goods that were in short supply on the Colombian border, being taken to Colombia to be sold for profit.
For the past 20 years, Venezuela has been governed by the socialist PSUV (the United Socialist Party of Venezuela). The PSUV has gained control over many of Venezuela’s institutions in their years in power — including much of the judiciary, the electoral councils, and the supreme court.
Under president Maduro the economy collapsed. Shortages of basic supplies became common, triggering 4.5 million people to leave the country.
In December 2016, opposition parties won a majority in the National Assembly — parties that were much less lenient to Maduros whims. In response to his lack of control he created the National Constituent Assembly, made up exclusively of government supporters whose powers supersede those of the National Assembly. The two governing bodies have been in contention ever since. Maduro was re-elected in 2018 in an election that was widely dismissed as rigged. The voter turnout was between 47.8% and 17.32% depending on the sources, and Maduro winning 67.84% of the vote. Reports of vote buying plagued this election, many Venezuelans suffered from extreme hunger were bribed by the government with food to vote for Maduro. In a visit to Delta Amacuro, president and reelection candidate Nicolás Maduro gave away eight motor boats, nine ambulances, and reopened the "Antonio Díaz '' Tucupita Airport, among other announcements. This violated Article 223 of the Organic Law of Electoral Processes which forbids the use of state resources during election campaigns, as well as one of the prerogatives in the Agreement of Electoral Guarantees signed by the presidential candidates to the CNE. There was also alleged bias present in the National Electoral Council and the counting of votes.
Nicolas Maduro, serving President of Venezuela
Nicolas Maduro, the 46th president of Venezuela, assumed office on the 19th of April, 2013. His presidency has been disputed by Juan Guaido since January of 2019. Beginning his working life as a bus driver, Maduro became a trade union leader prior to his election to the National Assembly in 2000. He was appointed to a number of positions under President Hugo Chávez, and was even described by the Wall Street Journal in the year 2012 as the "most capable administrator and politician of Chávez's inner circle". He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2013 and as the vice president of Venezuela from 2012 to 2013 under the presidency of Chávez. After the death of Chávez on 5 March 2013, Maduro assumed the presidency. A special presidential election was held in 2013, during which Maduro won with 50.62% of the vote as the United Socialist Party of Venezuela candidate. He has ruled Venezuela by decree since 2015. This position requires careful balancing of personal desires – maintaining control and power over Venezuela – and a bombardment of opposition. A major objective for this position will be to convince as many countries and individuals of your legitimacy as president, and focus on acquiring support.
Diosdado Cabello, captain of the armed forces
Diosdado Cabello is a Venezuelan politician and a current member of the National Assembly of Venezuela, where he was previously the Speaker. He is also an active member of the Venezuelan armed forces, with the rank of Captain. In 2012, Cabello was elected and sworn in as President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, the country’s parliament. He was elected President of the National Assembly each year until 2016. He is currently the President of the National Constituent Assembly. He is often described as one of the most powerful men in Venezuela, and that he possesses significant "sway with the military and lawmakers plus close links to businessmen." The delegate representing Cabello holds significant influence in many areas of the Venezuelan government and is a senior official in Maduro's government. A major objective will be to cement Maduro's position, and focus on the removal of Guaido.
Juan Guaidó, serving president of the National Assembly
On 23 January 2019, Guaidó and the National Assembly declared he was acting President of Venezuela starting the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis by challenging Nicolás Maduro's presidency. Guaidó's political career began when he emerged as a student leader in the 2007 Venezuelan protests. He then helped found the Popular Will party with Leopoldo López in 2009, and was elected to be an alternate deputy in the National Assembly one year later in 2010. Guiadó has been of crucial importance in the Venezuelan presidential crisis, which began when the National Assembly, which considered the 2018 Venezuelan presidential election illegitimate, refused to recognize the inauguration of Maduro to a second presidential term in 2019. Just 18 days after he was chosen to lead the Assembly, Guaidó announced, on 23 January 2019, that he was formally assuming the role of interim president under Article 233 of the Constitution of Venezuela, with the backing of the National Assembly, until free elections could be held. Guaido aims to stabilize the economy, attend immediately to the humanitarian emergency, rescue public services, and overcome poverty. All the while in competition with Nicolas Maduro.
Tarek El-Aissami, Minister of Industries and National Production
He is a Venezuelan politician serving the Minister of Industry and Natural Production since June 14th, 2018. He entered public service in 2003 as the head of the ministry overseeing Identification cards. He previously was Minister of the Interior and Justice from 2018- 2012. As of the 14 of August, 2019, he is wanted by ICE for international narcotics trafficking and money laundering. He is also accused of helping members from the Hezbollah terrorist group enter Venezuela, according to investigations by the Venezuelan intelligence service revealed by the New York Times. According to information documented by the Venezuelan Observatory of Prisons, Tareck El Aissami relaxed rules for visiting prisons, leading to an increase in contraband and smuggling.
Jorge Arreaza, Minister of Foreign Affairs
He is the former vice president of Venezuela. He has held several important positions in the administration of President Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro. He currently serves as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The United States Treasury Department sanctioned him for allegedly exploiting the U.S. financial system to support what it considers the “illegitimate” regime of Nicolas Maduro. Arreaza has worked to strengthen diplomatic ties with countries such as Russia, Syria and North Korea.
Jorge Rodríguez, former Vice President
Jorge Jesús Rodríguez Gómez is a Venezuelan politician and psychiatrist who was Vice President of Venezuela from January 2007 to January 2008, and served as Mayor of the Libertador Bolivarian Municipality from 2008-2017. He is currently the Venezuelan Vice president of Communication, Tourism and Culture.
Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State
Since April 2018 he has been serving as the 70th United States secretary of state. He was the director of the CIA from 2017-2018. On January 23, 2019, he pledged United States support for Guaido and recognized him as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. On the 20th of January, 2020, he pledged more support for Guaido and his cause.
Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Trade Representative
Since May of 2017, he has been serving as the U.S. Trade Representative, with bipartisan support in the Senate. He was confirmed 82-14, and he has defended protectionism. He has stated in regards to negotiations that he always tries to be friendly while negotiating, and avoids theatrics.
Wang Yi, China
Since March 2013, Wang Yi has been serving as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. He is a career diplomat with decades of experience working on sensitive issues, including as head of the Taiwan Affairs Office. In the past 7 years, he has successfully gotten Panama, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic to recognize the PRC and stop recognizing the Republic of China(Taiwan).
Sergey Lavrov, Russia
He has been the Foreign Minister twice, first starting in 2004, and second starting in 2013. He is a carrier diplomat from the Soviet Union, first as an attache at the Soviet embassy in Sri Lanka, then as a senior adviser in the Soviet Mission at the United Nations. He has facilitated the strong Russain relations to Venezuela, and the Russian Government supports President Maduro, but he is still well regarded in the international community as a civil servant, and has always been considered honest, and not a politician.
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was made Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey on November 24, 2015. He also represents the Antalya Province in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. First elected to Parliament in 2002, he is a founding member of the Justice and Development Party. He was the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 2010 to 2012.
Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla, Cuba
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla served as Cuba's Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1995 to 2003 and was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs on March 2, 2009. Rodiguez Parilla gained recognition in 2015 for becoming the first Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs to visit the United States on a diplomatic mission in 57 years when he attended the reinauguration of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. He has advocated strongly for better treatment of Cuba by the United States but remains committed to developing a strong relationship between the two countries.
Ernesto Henrique Fraga Araújo, Brazil
Ernesto Henrique Fraga Araujo is a career diplomat at the Brazillian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since January 1st 2019, he has served as Brazil’s Minister of Foriegn Affairs after being chosen by Jair Bolsonaro. The choice was considered unusual as he was not particularly influential, being described by The Economist as "hitherto-obscure diplomat". He has written that globalism "is the economic globalization that has been driven by cultural Marxism '' and has claimed that climate change is a cultural Marxist plot to undermine Western countries.
Rodolfo Nin Novoa, Uruguay
Since 2015 Rodolfo Nin Novoa has served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay. He was formerly Vice President of Uruguay from 2005 to 2010. He founded and is the leader of the Progressive Alliance.
Marise Payne, Australia
Marise Payne has been Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Morrison Government since 2018, and was also appointed Minister for Women in 2019. She has been a Senator for New South Wales since 1997 and represents the Liberal Party.
Naledi Pandor, South Africa
Naledi Pandor has been serving as the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation since 2019. Born in South Africa in 1953, she is a teacher, lecturer, and politician who has held a variety of government positions. She has served as a Member of Parliament for the African National Congress since 1994.
Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Colombia
Carlos Holmes Trujillo is a Colombian dynasty politician, diplomat, scholar, and attorney. He currently serves as Colombia’s defense minister. Prior to this he was a mayor, ambassador to the Organization of American States, and foreign minister.
Karen Cummings, Guyana
Dr Karen Cummings has been Guyana’s minister of foreign affairs since 2019. Prior to taking her most recent appointment, Dr Cummings was a Minister of Public Health for four years and a Member of Parliament. She has also worked as a primary care physician. She is a member of the left-wing alliance A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the political party The Alliance for Change (AFC).