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.
Fallout from govt’s suspension of opposition primary results continued, and tensions with Guyana ran high over Caracas’ upcoming referendum on disputed territory.
Govt-opposition tensions simmered over ban on presidential candidate. Tensions persisted over Supreme Court’s 30 Oct decision to suspend results of opposition primary, which María Corina Machado – currently banned from running for office – won in landslide victory. Govt-controlled Supreme Court in same ruling described bans on politicians as “firm”, fuelling concerns govt will not allow fair vote in 2024 poll; U.S. official Juan González 8 Nov said in interview with Colombian television that Washington would take steps to snapback sanctions, provisionally lifted 18 Oct following govt-opposition agreement in Barbados, if Maduro administration did not lift ban by end of month; in sign of slight easing tensions, govt and opposition joint statement 30 Nov said barred candidates would be able to appeal against bans 1-15 Dec. Earlier, govt’s chief negotiator and National Assembly president Jorge Rodríguez 17 Nov said govt would not accept “ultimatums from anyone”. EU, meanwhile, 13 Nov extended individual sanctions until May 2024; Rodríguez next day said govt would not invite EU to monitor elections while sanctions persist.
Tensions with Guyana escalated over disputed region. Tensions between Georgetown and Caracas spiked as latter prepared for 3 Dec referendum on contested Essequibo area, oil-rich region currently administered by Guyana. Plebiscite will ask Venezuelans if they agree to reject International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) jurisdiction over region, create state called Guayana Esequiba and grant its population Venezuelan citizenship. Guyana continued to protest referendum, claiming Maduro govt seeks to use vote to justify region’s “annexation”. U.S. defence officials 27-28 Nov visited country to “deepen partnership”.
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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