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 pivotal 2024 election may offer a way out of its political and humanitarian crises, but the risk of setbacks is high. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2024, Crisis Group explains what the EU can do to help.
In blow to prospects for competitive election, Supreme Court upheld decision banning opposition’s candidate María Corina Machado from standing for office, while authorities cracked down on armed forces and civil society.
Supreme Court reaffirmed opposition candidate’s ban from running for office. Despite govt-opposition agreement in Barbados in Oct 2023 to improve electoral conditions, govt-controlled Supreme Court 26 Jan upheld ban on opposition leader María Corina Machado’s candidacy, meaning she cannot run in 2024 presidential poll. Opposition coalition Unitary Platform dismissed decision as illegal and in breach of Barbados deal, while platform’s chief negotiator Gerardo Blyde appealed to presidents of France, Brazil and Colombia to convince Maduro to reverse it. EU and U.S. expressed deep concern, along with many of Venezuela’s neighbours; U.S. 29 Jan announced it will begin reinstating sanctions, having eased them following Barbados; govt next day called decision “blackmail”.
Govt clamped down on security forces and civil society. Police 17 Jan raided office of teachers’ union in Barinas state (west) and arrested union leader Victor Venegas for alleged involvement in anti-govt conspiracy. Attorney General Tarek Saab 22 Jan announced authorities had arrested at least 32 civilians and former military personnel and issued warrants against eleven others for allegedly conspiring against govt in several different plots; govt claimed plans were backed by U.S. and implicated Machado. National Assembly 23 Jan approved law that could severely curtail activity and, in some instances, lead to closure of NGOs, sparking condemnation from civil society and human rights groups.
Opposition prepared for 2024 elections despite uncertainty. Ahead of Supreme Court announcement, Machado 23 Jan announced alliance of political parties and civil society groups to organise electoral campaign and called on govt to announce exact date of poll.
Caracas-Georgetown talks continued over disputed region. Govt and Guyana 25 Jan agreed to continue diplomatic efforts over contested Essequibo area, oil-rich region currently administered by Guyana, during talks in Brazilian capital Brasília.
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.
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.
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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