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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

Deteriorated Situation

National Assembly (AN) 18 Aug refused to subordinate itself to newly-installed Constituent Assembly (ANC), which decreed that it had consequently assumed all powers of AN, effectively dissolving legislature. Govt 16 Aug installed ANC’s so-called Truth Commission, tasked inter alia with investigating opposition leaders for alleged participation in anti-govt violence. ANC member Diosdado Cabello said any opposition candidate for elected office would first have to obtain “good conduct” certificate from ANC; ANC 30 Aug voted to try opposition leaders for treason. ANC 5 Aug moved to dismiss attorney general Luisa Ortega Díaz and replace her with govt loyalist Tarek W. Saab. Intelligence service 16 Aug raided Ortega’s home and authorities issued warrant for arrest of her husband; couple fled to Colombia, Ortega later said she had evidence Maduro and other govt leaders involved in corruption. Opposition split over whether to participate in delayed Dec 2017 elections for state governor: over 30 opposition politicians announced candidacy; Vente Venezuela party leader María Corina Machado withdrew from opposition Democratic Unity alliance (MUD) over issue, saying to participate was to legitimise dictatorship. Electoral authority 12 Aug brought forward election date to Oct. Armed group led by former soldiers 6 Aug briefly took over barracks in major military base in Valencia, west of Caracas: three people killed. Attack coincided with social media publication of video showing former National Guard officer Juan Carlos Caguaripano with armed soldiers announcing rebellion against Maduro’s “murderous tyranny”; Caguaripano and another leader captured by police 11 Aug, intelligence chief said eighteen people in custody. Seventeen regional foreign ministers and representatives discussed crisis 8 Aug in Lima, Peru: twelve later signed declaration condemning “breakdown of the democratic order”, said they would not recognise ANC actions. U.S. did not take part; President Trump 11 Aug told reporters he did not rule out “military option” to restore democracy; Lima group and many regional govts rejected idea. U.S. 25 Aug introduced new sanctions restricting access for Venezuelan govt and state oil company to U.S. debt markets; said no plans to take military action “in near future”.

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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