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Venezuela faces a major political, economic and social crisis, with hyperinflation, acute scarcity of food, medicine and other basic goods and one of the world’s highest murder rates. The opposition has been staging widespread protests against the increasingly totalitarian policies enacted by Maduro’s government. Dozens of demonstrators have been killed. The July 2017 election of an all-powerful Constituent Assembly closed down almost all remaining democratic spaces, sparking widespread condemnation in the region and around the world. A negotiated restoration of democracy is vital if violence is to be avoided. Crisis Group aims to engage national players and the international community to build momentum for credible negotiations. We work to encourage successful third-party facilitation, including human rights and technical assistance mechanisms, and to help restore credible democratic and judicial systems.

CrisisWatch Venezuela

Unchanged Situation

Month dominated by long-postponed elections for state governors 15 Oct, which under constitution should have been held Dec 2016. Govt continued to insist that participation as candidates in state governor elections amounted to recognising Constituent Assembly (ANC)’s legitimacy and authority to swear in elected candidates; opposition Democratic Unity alliance (MUD) rejected terms but persisted with taking part in elections, amid predictions that its candidates could win in as many as eighteen out of 23 states, compared with three seats held before election. Electoral authority (CNE) 15 Oct announced landslide victory for govt candidates: eighteen states, including key opposition stronghold Miranda, went to govt, five won by opposition (including four by Acción Democrática (AD)). MUD rejected results, called for complete nationwide audit of election process with independent, international verification. U.S., Canada, EU and twelve-country Lima Group formed to press for restoration of democracy echoed calls; govt said it would only publish vote tallies. During campaign, govt hampered opposition efforts to mobilise supporters and ensure effective vote by keeping names of MUD candidates who pulled out after losing in primaries on ballot to confuse voters, and reassigned over 700,000 voters from opposition strongholds to alternative polling stations. In south-eastern Bolívar state, announcement of results was delayed amid three consecutive days of street protests; after authorities declared govt candidate winner, MUD produced paper vote tallies contradicting official count. AD governors agreed to be sworn in before ANC, whereupon party leader Henry Ramos said they had “excluded themselves” from party. Juan Pablo Guanipa of Primero Justicia, winner in Zulia state, refused; govt called fresh election in Zulia. MUD’s participation in elections, and governors’ swearing-in, fomented further division within opposition ranks, as vocal minority accused MUD leadership of treachery. Govt called delayed municipal elections for Dec, provoking opposition debate over whether to take part.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

16 Aug 2017
There is malaria now even in urban areas [of Venezuela]. The government's anti-malaria programme has effectively been dismantled. Al Jazeera

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
7 Aug 2017
It’s very hard to create critical mass [in Venezuela] without being found out. In an era of instant digital communications, authorities can be alerted to the risk of destabilization very quickly. AP

Ivan Briscoe

Program Director, Latin America and Caribbean
5 Aug 2017
Should [violent] events recur, Venezuela’s political conflict could morph into a low-intensity civil war. The Guardian

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
28 Jun 2017
But so far that discontent [within Venezuela's armed forces] has not translated into a split in the armed forces, and this is clearly what everybody's waiting for. Al Jazeera

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
24 Jun 2017
The opposition [in Venezuela] knows perfectly well that they would lose a violent struggle. If they start shooting back, everything is over. So the violence on the opposition side is reactive. Al Jazeera

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
14 Jun 2017
The election [of Venezuela's Constitutional Assembly] planned for July 30 could be a trigger point leading to a sharp escalation of violence. The Washington Post

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes

Latest Updates

Watch List 2017 – Second Update

Crisis Group’s second update to our Watch List 2017 includes entries on Nigeria, Qatar, Thailand and Venezuela. These early-warning publications identify conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.

Venezuela: A Blueprint for Strife

Two developments are propelling Venezuela faster along a route that has already led to dozens of deaths in the last few weeks: the first is an undemocratic proposal for a new constitution; the second is increasingly isolated Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Organisation of American States.

Also available in Español

Venezuela: In a Hole, and Still Digging

Venezuela’s neighbours are at last contemplating tougher measures to counter its dangerous and undemocratic behaviour. The government, helped by outsiders, should now negotiate with the opposition on a transitional regime to lead the country out of its grave social, economic and political crisis.

Also available in Español

Venezuela: A Regional Solution to the Political Standoff

Facing social and economic collapse, Venezuela is likely to continue to be Latin America's most urgent crisis in 2017. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to work closely with governments in the region, particularly Caribbean nations with close ties to Caracas, toward the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.

Venezuela Is Falling off the Map

Beset by relentless hyperinflation, collapsing public services and increasingly dictatorial rule, Venezuela is at risk of becoming a failed state. The best hope for change lies with neighbouring countries, which must sustain pressure to find a solution.

Also available in Español

Our People

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes