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.
Bogotá and Caracas are back on cordial terms after a period of rancour. Their interests may not always align precisely in the years ahead. But with deft diplomacy, and help from neighbours, the two countries can nonetheless keep repairing their links to mutual benefit.
Preparation for opposition primaries in October continued, but internal divisions persisted; Mexico talks remained stalled.
Opposition announced schedule for primaries amid internal disputes. Independent commission, set up by opposition coalition Unitary Platform to organise election for single candidate to run in 2024 poll, 15 Feb announced timetable for process, which will culminate in vote 22 Oct. Unresolved issues remain, however. Notably, opposition is divided over whether to request logistical support from govt-controlled National Electoral Council. Some potential candidates reject its involvement, including front runner María Corina Machado, who 15 Feb claimed it was an “instrument” President Maduro could use to sabotage process; commission’s president, Jesús María Casal, 16 Feb reiterated that eschewing use of official polling stations would vastly increase cost of election and reduce voter participation. Controversy also persisted over diaspora vote. Of around 3mn Venezuelans living abroad, just over 100,000 are registered to vote; hardliners claim they are essential to process, but govt has little incentive to register them since most are likely opposition voters, and commission has limited capacity to do so.
Mexico talks between govt and opposition remained stalled. Despite Maduro govt’s refusal to schedule another official round of talks with Unitary Platform in Mexico, informal discussions continued early month in capital Caracas. In televised comments, however, Maduro 15 Feb accused opposition of failing to fulfil its commitment under Nov humanitarian agreement to transfer frozen funds to UN for infrastructural and other projects in Venezuela, claiming govt has no motive “to sit down again with that group”. Informal talks have not resumed since.
In other important developments. U.S. 6 Feb assumed control of Venezuelan diplomatic properties in Washington and New York in response to mainstream opposition’s decision to dissolve “interim presidency” of Juan Guaidó; opposition envoys 8 Feb were denied entry. Colombian President Petro and Maduro 16 Feb met at shared border to sign trade agreement.
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.
From a humanitarian, security and economic perspective the closure of the border [between Colombia and Venezuela] has been a disaster. It’s pushed migrants in the directi...
There’s a lot of different centers of power in Venezuela and not all of them are aligned with Maduro or share his goal of seeing talks with the U.S. advance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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