A discreet Norwegian diplomatic effort represents the best hope for breaking Venezuela's political deadlock. To stop the country’s slide into humanitarian and economic catastrophe, pragmatic backers of both government and opposition should put aside empty hopes of outright victory and support a negotiated settlement.
Originally published in Foreign Affairs
Govt and opposition dialogue resumed while UN human rights chief released report into human rights violations. Govt and opposition delegations 15 July resumed talks in Barbados; Norwegian govt, mediating negotiations, said intention was for talks to be “continuous and expeditious” with delegations due to meet each week for several days to find solution to crisis. President Maduro 19 July said ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela should prepare for “epic battle” to recover opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN) in as yet unannounced parliamentary elections; opposition leader and “interim President” Juan Guaidó 16 July said “real solution” to crisis was close but three days later said “tough days” lay ahead and there were “no magic solutions”. Amid continued opposition division between those seeking dialogue and hardliners pushing for international military intervention, AN 23 July approved law restoring country’s membership of regional defence Rio Treaty, which some in opposition see as step to requesting foreign military assistance; however, Guaidó insisted treaty was not primarily about military intervention. International support for Norwegian-sponsored talks remained strong with International Contact Group, headed by EU and Uruguay, and UN Sec Gen Guterres reiterating support for talks; U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliot Abrams 12 July expressed hope negotiations would remain confidential so as to be constructive. Contact Group’s Special Representative Enrique Iglesias 9 July held talks in Caracas with both Maduro and Guaidó. UN Human Rights Chief Bachelet 5 July presented report accusing govt of committing “numerous human rights violations” including torture and extrajudicial killings; govt filed over 70 objections to report and said report failed to take into account evidence govt presented. Report called for dissolution of police special forces (FAES) but Maduro 19 July expressed support for FAES. Repression of opposition continued; govt 12 July arrested two of Guaidó’s bodyguards, accusing them of trafficking military weapons. U.S. 21 July said Venezuelan air force “aggressively shadowed” U.S. reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace 19 July, govt claimed plane entered its airspace. Mass power-cut hit most of country 22 July; govt blamed U.S. “electromagnetic attack”.
In recent years Venezuela’s political and economic implosion has become a major headache for much of Latin America. Regional governments should seek to find common ground and coordinate their efforts with the EU’s International Contact Group to push for a negotiated transition.
Across swathes of southern Venezuela, army units, Colombian guerrillas and crime syndicates jostle for control over gold mines funnelling hard currency to President Nicolás Maduro’s government. Outside powers should stop considering military intervention and instead help broker a peaceful transition in Venezuela, lest chaos ensue.
As Venezuela’s socio-economic woes deepen, so do the fissures in the opposition to President Nicolás Maduro’s government. Bridging these rifts is vital if the country’s crisis is to end through a negotiated transition. Outside powers should back opposition unity and stop hinting at military intervention.
Venezuela’s socio-economic implosion is dragging in neighbours as hundreds of thousands of people flee the country, epidemics spread and violent crime spills over borders. International humanitarian support is needed and regional powers should push for a negotiated transition, including through threats of targeted sanctions.
Economic mismanagement, corruption and dwindling reserves have forced Venezuela into penury and now into missed payments and partial default on its debts. Full-scale, internationally supervised negotiations involving a restored parliament are essential to pave the way to a debt restructuring and a free, fair presidential election.
Maduro is essentially calling Trump’s bluff. Maduro has essentially concluded that the military option is a very remote possibility.
The Maduro team doesn’t want to talk to [the opposition] and doesn’t trust them. They think they will all end up in jail or strung up from lampposts.
[Miners in Venezuela] are severely at risk of being shot dead: Mining communities have phenomenally high homicide rates, even by the extraordinary high levels that we see in the rest of Venezuela.
People [in Venezuela] are moving to the countryside because you can more or less survive if you have a small plot of land and access to your own produce.
Increased prices can be charged to [Venezuelan] migrants because of their sheer desire to cross [the border to reach Colombia].
The prognosis [for Venezuela in] 2018 is further deterioration, humanitarian emergency, and an increased exodus of Venezuelans. Sustained domestic and international pressure will be required.
Originally published in The Guardian
A failed uprising by Venezuelan National Assembly Chair Juan Guaidó has emboldened President Nicolás Maduro and deepened the country's political deadlock. However difficult, outside actors should continue to press the two sides to form a transitional cabinet, stabilise Venezuela’s economy and hold elections.
The crippling blackouts across Venezuela are a grim portent of things to come as U.S. oil sanctions kick in and the country’s crisis deepens. All concerned to end Venezuelans’ suffering should vigorously pursue a negotiated transition leading to a power-sharing deal.
The month-old struggle over Venezuela’s presidency shows no sign of resolution and risks a dangerous escalation. With this Statement, Crisis Group's Venezuela Campaign shifts into higher gear with an urgent call to negotiate a political transition and meet humanitarian needs while lessening the prospect of a military intervention.
Originally published in Foreign Affairs