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.
Originally published in World Politics Review
Talks about resumption of Mexico dialogue continued, govt supporters attacked opposition leader Juan Guaidó, and President Maduro embarked on international tour to strengthen foreign relations. While U.S. govt and Venezuelan opposition continued to insist during month that resumption of suspended Mexico talks between govt and opposition was imminent, series of violent attacks against opposition leader Juan Guaidó during country tour cast doubt. Chavista militants 4 June tried to prevent Guaidó from speaking in Maracaibo municipality by throwing chairs at organisers; 11 June forced Guaidó to flee meeting in Cojedes state. U.S. Sec of State Antony Blinken 12 June and European External Action Service 15 June condemned violence. In slight easing of sanctions, U.S. State Department reportedly sent letters to European oil companies Eni and Repsol early June allowing export of sanctioned Venezuelan oil to Europe for first time in two years, in apparent move to collect billions in unpaid debt owed by govt. U.S. Treasury Department 17 June removed Carlos Malpica Flores, former national treasurer and nephew of first lady, from U.S. sanctions list. Internationally, U.S. barred Venezuela, along with Nicaragua and Cuba, from 6-10 June Americas Summit in Los Angeles, defying pressure from Mexican President López Obrador, who subsequently boycotted event. U.S. President Biden 8 June held phone conversation with opposition leader Guaidó, reaffirmed support for interim leader and need for dialogue despite not inviting him to summit. U.S. delegation 27 June visited capital Caracas in attempt to secure release of detained Americans; effort failed and delegation left country on 30 June. In apparent bid to show he is not internationally isolated, Maduro 7 June embarked on trip to Turkey, Iran, Algeria, Kuwait and Qatar. In Iran, Maduro 11 June signed 20-year cooperation plan with govt. Venezuelan govt 4 June announced it would hold “counter-summit on 28-29 June” in San Cristobal city near Colombian border to reject Madrid NATO summit, which focused on Ukraine war. Meanwhile, Colombia’s President-elect Gustavo Petro 22 June spoke with Maduro about his commitment to reopen shared border, closed since 2015; Maduro reaffirmed willingness to “re-establish normalcy” at border.
The political standoff in Venezuela continues as the country sinks deeper into socio-economic distress. Renewed talks between government and opposition – now on hold – give external partners of both sides an opening to push harder for resolution of the impasse. They should seize the opportunity.
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.
The Colombian-Venezuelan frontier, long plagued by guerrilla warfare and organised crime, is now also the site of an inter-state standoff. The two countries should urgently reopen communication channels to lower tensions and lessen the suffering of migrants who cross the border, whether legally or otherwise.
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.
Maduro no tiene la intención de traicionar a Putin, sino explorar qué réditos puede sacar de este acercamiento con Estados Unidos.
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.
The deadlock between President Maduro's government and the opposition is generating a humanitarian emergency in Venezuela. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to maintain contact with all opposition groups, engage with the government to restore representative politics and the rule of law, support international efforts for negotiations and increase aid.
A fresh series of talks to address Venezuela’s profound political crisis are afoot in Mexico City. The discussions will likely be long and cumbersome, but there is space for partial and early agreements that could improve everyday life for Venezuelans.
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.
A series of gestures from Caracas suggests that President Nicolás Maduro’s government might be more willing to negotiate with rivals and enact partial reforms. Washington should respond in kind with phased sanctions relief and diplomatic gestures that can be reversed if Venezuela backslides.