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.
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.
Opposition candidates competing in Oct primary kicked off their campaigns as authorities announced new National Electoral Council; govt saw progress and setbacks in court rulings on foreign assets.
Campaigning for opposition primary kicked off. Candidates 22 Aug began campaigning for opposition primary on 22 Oct to select single nominee for 2024 presidential election. Primary process continued to encounter obstacles, however, with no clarity from govt about location of voting centres opposition will be able to use, raising concerns about voters’ ability to cast ballots. Opposition candidates also faced threats. Notably, Attorney General Tarek Saab 13 Aug launched investigation into death threats against primary candidate Delsa Solórzano, including one that referenced murdered Ecuadorean presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio (see Ecuador); and reported govt supporters 15 Aug violently dispersed campaign event of Henrique Capriles in Apure state (west), injuring ten. Meanwhile, National Assembly 24 Aug appointed new National Electoral Council headed by govt loyalist Elvis Amoroso, which signalled govt’s unwillingness to allow competitive presidential race.
Govt won lawsuit to recover frozen assets from Portuguese bank. Govt 9 Aug announced it had won legal battle to release $1.5bn in state assets from Portuguese bank, which were frozen in 2019 following imposition by U.S. and other countries of sanctions on govt; Venezuela 16 Aug petitioned U.S. Supreme Court to overturn U.S. judge’s late July ruling, criticised by govt and opposition, which set Oct start date for auction of shares of Venezuela-owned refiner Citgo Petroleum’s parent company to pay off creditors.
Dismissal of Red Cross chief in Venezuela sparked condemnation. Supreme Court 4 Aug dismissed President of Venezuelan Red Cross Mario Enrique Villarroel and ordered organisational restructuring after VP of ruling United Socialist Party accused Villarroel of “mafia activity” and conspiring against govt; international and domestic NGOs criticised move while Red Cross 9 Aug said “any state intervention in our National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies raises serious concerns regarding their independence”. Meanwhile, rights group Amnesty International 29 Aug published report accusing govt of using arbitrary detentions as tool of repression.
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 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.
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