This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Mariano de Alba talk to Venezuelan activist Roberto Patiño about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, the opportunities for change and what role the European Union and the U.S. could play in a possible transition.
President Maduro made several gestures signalling possible willingness to negotiate with rivals, including appointment of opposition members in new electoral authority. Govt-controlled National Assembly 4 May appointed new National Electoral Council (CNE), with five-person leadership including two opposition members, strongest opposition representation in 15 years – signalling Maduro’s possible openness to further concessions. New CNE divided opposition. Mainstream opposition leader Juan Guaidó same day said new CNE was creature of “illegitimate” National Assembly and would “drag country toward greater disaster”, while former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who heads moderate opposition politicians engaged in dialogue with Maduro, 5 May welcomed “essential first step to open the constitutional and democratic reconstruction path”. Guaidó 11 May proposed “National Salvation Accord” including timetable for “free and fair” presidential, parliamentary, regional and municipal elections, release of political prisoners and humanitarian aid access in exchange for progressive lifting of international sanctions and guarantees for current govt officials. Capriles 25 May expressed support for Guaidó’s proposal, which U.S. 11 May and EU 13 May also welcomed. CNE 13 May announced regional and municipal elections for 21 Nov. In response, Guaidó next day said opposition would not “lend itself to a farce”. Meanwhile, chief prosecutor 1 May announced charges against low-ranking govt and military officials in three high-profile political killings for which govt had hitherto denied responsibility; move came day after six imprisoned oil executives, whose freedom is sought by U.S., were released into house arrest. In Apure state near border with Colombia, low-intensity conflict continued between Venezuela’s military and dissident faction of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) known as 10th Front, with clashes leaving at least seven soldiers injured near La Victoria municipality early May. After 10th Front 15 May released video of eight soldiers reportedly taken prisoners in Apure late April, Defence Minister Gen Padrino López same day confirmed soldiers were in guerrillas’ hands. Jesús Santrich, leader of another FARC dissident faction known as “Segunda Marquetalia”, reportedly killed 17 May in Venezuela.
A study of social media content shows that Venezuelan opposition figures often take harder anti-government lines if they flee abroad. Exiles’ voices are important, but those trying to end Venezuela’s crisis should listen to others as well, recalling that compromise offers the only peaceful exit.
Following legislative elections, President Nicolás Maduro controls all of Venezuela’s major political institutions. Meanwhile, the country’s crisis deepens apace. An exit remains possible if the government and opposition adjust their zero-sum thinking to admit the need for compromise. The new U.S. administration can help.
Geography, economics and migration patterns dictate that Colombia and Venezuela, which severed diplomatic ties in 2019, will confront the coronavirus pandemic together. The two countries should temporarily mend their relations, and the Venezuelan factions should pause their duel, to allow for a coordinated humanitarian response.
Venezuela’s political showdown appears deadlocked. President Nicolás Maduro remains firmly in place over a year after the opposition behind Juan Guaidó mounted its campaign to supplant him. The gap between the sides is wide, but conversations with pragmatists reveal the outlines of a potential compromise.
Power in Venezuela is slipping away from state institutions and concentrating in the hands of criminals, guerrillas and other non-state actors. Any new negotiations between government and opposition must consider how to defang these armed irregulars, who might otherwise scuttle an eventual settlement.
The standoff between Venezuela’s government and opposition has reached a worrying juncture, with negotiations falling apart, side deals emerging and regional states rolling out new sanctions on Caracas. Resuming the talks is the safest path to an exit from the country’s ever deepening crisis.
Maduro is very isolated internationally. It's hard for him to trade. He can't renegotiate the massive debt that Venezuela has. So he needs some relief.
Unless he [Guaidó] is able to reinvent himself in some way, I think the Guaidó plan has clearly failed.
[Venezuela's] health service had collapsed long before sanctions were imposed.
[The Venezuelan Government] want[s] to make it quite clear that Guaidó is history.
If there's mass social unrest [in Venezuela] they are not really in a position to control it and I think that's the government's nightmare scenario.
What the [Venezuelan] regime is facing now is much more grave than they’ve ever faced before.
Opposition politicians in Venezuela face a difficult set of choices. But the sooner they face up to them, the sooner Venezuela can begin to tackle the enormous challenges of a much-needed political transition and economic reconstruction.
Originally published in World Politics Review
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh, Richard Atwood and Ivan Briscoe, Crisis Group’s Latin America Director, talk about COVID-19’s devastation, polarisation and populism in the region, as well as the Venezuela crisis and violence in Mexico.
As Venezuela faces one of the world’s worst economic and humanitarian crises, concessions on both sides will be necessary to break the political deadlock. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to press for urgent access for humanitarian relief and to encourage the Maduro government and opposition parties to re-engage in negotiations.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood discuss the “maximum pressure” sanctions that the U.S. has imposed upon Iran and Venezuela. Their guests are Crisis Group’s experts on these two countries, Ali Vaez and Phil Gunson.