Venezuela is in the midst of a tense political standoff and socio-economic meltdown, with hyperinflation, violent crime, political repression and food shortages pushing nearly six million citizens to flee the country. Incumbent President Nicolás Maduro has grabbed power for the executive and dismantled democratic checks and balances, triggering moves backed by the U.S. and allies to unseat him and install an interim president. A negotiated restoration of legitimate and representative state institutions as well as urgent economic reform are vital if the country is to resolve the political crisis peacefully and reduce mass emigration. Crisis Group aims to engage national, Latin American and international players to build momentum for talks, strengthen human rights protections and help restore the rule of law.
Venezuela’s government and opposition have reached an agreement laying the groundwork for a competitive presidential election in 2024. It could be a breakthrough in efforts to resolve the country’s political and socio-economic crisis. The accord is untested, however, and obstacles may lie ahead.
In crucial step toward competitive presidential poll, govt and opposition reached deal to improve electoral conditions, leading to substantial U.S. sanctions relief.
Govt and opposition struck deal to improve electoral conditions. Maduro govt and group of opposition parties known as Unitary Platform reached agreement in Barbados on minimum conditions for 2024 presidential poll. Notably, agreement fixes vote for unspecified date in second half of 2024, includes update of electoral registry and commits govt-controlled National Electoral Council (CNE) to invite international ‘technical’ observation missions including from EU, UN and AU. Text says parties will promote “authorisation” of all candidates and political parties as long as they “meet requirements to participate in the presidential elections”; govt’s chief negotiator Jorge Rodríguez immediately interpreted clause as stating banned candidates cannot run, which would rule out opposition candidate (see below).
Washington provided ample sanctions relief. Welcoming agreement, U.S. 18 Oct issued broad authorisation of transactions involving Venezuela’s oil, gas and gold sectors, and removed ban on secondary trading of certain Venezuelan sovereign bonds, as well as debt and equity issued by state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela oil company. License lifting sanctions on oil and gas sector issued for six months, with Washington promising to renew it if Caracas complies with electoral agreement and releases U.S. and Venezuelan prisoners. Govt same day released five political prisoners.
María Corina Machado won opposition primary, govt later suspended results. Opposition 22 Oct held primary to select candidate for presidential election. Hardline politician María Corina Machado, currently banned from running for office, won overwhelmingly with 93% of vote after several prominent candidates pulled out of race in weeks before. Turnout was greater than expected, lending legitimacy to Machado’s candidacy for presidential election. Govt officials, however, alleged primary had been fraudulent and 24 Oct said opposition had inflated voter turnout; Attorney General Tarek William Saab next day announced criminal investigation into primary’s organisers. Govt-controlled Supreme Court 30 Oct suspended results of primary and ordered organisers to hand over all materials related to process; U.S. same day warned it would take action if govt fails to uphold commitments under electoral roadmap.
El Gobierno de Maduro [en Venezuela] tiene un interés en dar algunas concesiones desde el punto de vista político y electoral.
[Venezuelan President Maduro] can use repression and fraud to stay in power. But I think he would far rather win a relatively clean election.
With key polls approaching, negotiations to resolve Venezuela’s political crisis are stuck. To avoid prolonging the country’s malaise, the government, the opposition and foreign powers should converge behind a plan involving sanctions relief and matching steps by Caracas toward fairer votes and better-functioning state institutions.
Venezuela’s international isolation is easing, though its political crisis remains unresolved. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group explains what the EU and its member states can do to pave the way for progress in negotiations between government and opposition.
Crisis Group experts talk in this Twitter Space about what can be done to better protect Venezuelan migrants fleeing to Colombia from exploitation by criminal armed groups. The discussion was hosted by Bram Ebus, consultant for Latin America, Mariano de Alba, our senior advocacy advisor for Latin America and Glaeldys González, Giustra fellow for Latin America.
In recent years, Venezuelans have streamed into Colombia looking for work and respite from their country’s socio-economic meltdown. But dangers also await them, including the clutches of organised crime. Bogotá’s change of government is a chance to reset policy to keep the migrants safer.
Hugo Chavez's charisma fuelled his revolution in Venezuela, but as Crisis Group expert Phil Gunson explains in this photo essay, part of a larger project on deadly violence in Latin America, part of his legacy is also rising crime and hunger.
In this week’s Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood is joined by Crisis Group’s Iran expert Naysan Rafati and Venezuela expert Phil Gunson to discuss the Ukraine war’s global repercussions.
High-ranking U.S. officials made a surprise trip to Venezuela’s capital, hinting at efforts to improve bilateral relations and end the standoff between the Maduro government and its opponents. The backdrop is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which just might be changing strategic calculations an ocean away.
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