Venezuela

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.

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CrisisWatch Venezuela

Unchanged Situation

As presidential poll inched closer, crackdown deepened with arrest of prominent activist and expulsion of UN human rights monitors; govt prepared electoral timetable. 

Authorities detained high-profile activist. Security forces 9 Feb arrested lawyer and human rights activist Rocío San Miguel at airport in capital Caracas, holding her for over three days incommunicado. Chief Prosecutor Tarek W. Saab 12 Feb announced San Miguel had been charged with treason and terrorism in connection with alleged plot to assassinate President Maduro. Rights groups and international actors, including U.S., demanded her release. Arrest of San Miguel, a moderate who heads an NGO focused on defence and security, seen as govt message that dissent will not be tolerated. Meanwhile, discussions in govt-controlled National Assembly to restrict, or even eliminate, NGOs continued. 

Govt expelled UN human rights monitors in further sign of crackdown. FM Gil 15 Feb announced govt had given officials at Caracas office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 72 hours to leave country. Decision came after OHCHR 13 Feb said San Miguel’s detention could amount to forced disappearance and called for her “immediate release”; Gil said comments violated Venezuela’s sovereignty and that office had become “private law firm of coup plotters and terrorist groups”. Expulsion bodes ill for govt cooperation with other outside monitors, including potential EU election observation mission for 2024 presidential vote. 

Govt held consultations on electoral calendar. Govt-controlled National Assembly 5-16 Feb held consultations with political parties, businesses, unions and others to suggest date for presidential election; opposition coalition Unitary Platform 4 Feb declined invitation, saying meeting contravened Oct 2023 govt-opposition Barbados Agreement, in which sides agreed to “jointly” present election authority with their proposal; it accused govt of planning election without adequate guarantees for free and fair vote. Consultations led to proposal 28 Feb that includes over twenty potential dates for poll; electoral authorities to finalise date in March. 

In other important developments. Tensions with Guyana continued over contested Essequibo, oil-rich region currently administered by Guyana, with Caracas reportedly bolstering troops near border and Georgetown receiving increased military assistance from Washington. Russian FM Lavrov 20 Feb visited Caracas to reaffirm ties.

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In The News

11 dec 2022
El Gobierno de Maduro [en Venezuela] tiene un interés en dar algunas concesiones desde el punto de vista político y electoral. El paìs

Mariano de Alba

Senior Advocacy Advisor
3 nov 2022
[Venezuelan President Maduro] can use repression and fraud to stay in power. But I think he would far rather win a relatively clean election. NPR

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes

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Mariano de Alba

Senior Advocacy Advisor
Mariano de Alba

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
Phil Gunson

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