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Venezuela

Venezuela faces a major economic and social crisis, with hyper-inflation, acute scarcity of food, medicine and other basic goods and one of the world’s highest murder rates. There can be no return to stability and prosperity without a settlement of its chronic political conflict. But with the various branches of state refusing to recognise each other’s legitimacy, and with the timing and fairness of future elections in doubt, outside support for dialogue is vital if worsening violence is to be avoided. Crisis Group has developed policy recommendations on political and institutional reforms to restore the rule of law and judicial independence. Our aim is to engage national players and the international community to build momentum for successful third-party facilitation, including human rights and technical assistance mechanisms, and to help restore a credible and inclusive democratic system.

CrisisWatch Venezuela

Deteriorated Situation

Almost thirty people killed during month as security forces cracked down on growing anti-govt protests in capital and elsewhere, amid continuing deterioration in living conditions. Supreme Court (TSJ) 1 April reversed its 29 March decision to assume legislative power of National Assembly following condemnation from neighbouring countries and declaration by attorney general Luisa Ortega Díaz, former govt loyalist, that constitutional rule had been interrupted; Ortega’s stance marked unprecedented crack in regime unity. Despite measure’s reversal, nineteen Organization of American States (OAS) members voted 3 April for resolution declaring TSJ’s actions violation of constitutional order and urging Venezuela to restore democracy and separation of powers, and committing OAS to continue monitoring situation and seeking diplomatic solution. Comptroller general 9 April banned key opposition leader, Miranda state Governor and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, from holding office for fifteen years. Opposition Democratic Unity alliance (MUD) began series of mass rallies in capital and elsewhere, demanding dismissal of TSJ justices and holding of elections; some spontaneous protests also broke out, including 12 April in San Félix, Bolívar state, where crowd hurled objects at Maduro as he took part in commemorative act in street. Govt continued to react to demonstrations with force, using National Guard and police to disperse them with tear gas, water-cannon and plastic bullets, often fired at close range; also deployed were armed civilian para-police groups (colectivos) on motorcycles. MUD 19 April staged “mother of all marches”, calling hundreds of thousands onto streets of Caracas and provincial cities; 28 people reportedly killed in protests by end-month, reportedly mostly at hands of police and govt supporters, hundreds detained. Among the dead, at least eleven people reported killed 20 April in looting in Caracas as govt grip on poor barrios appeared to weaken. Maduro 23 April called for talks with opposition to resume; however, MUD declined to meet with international facilitator Leonel Fernández after he met with Maduro 24 April. OAS Permanent Council 26 April agreed to convene extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers to discuss Venezuela; in response, Venezuela announced moves to withdraw from OAS. Govt paid out almost $3bn to service foreign debt during month as imports continued to shrink, must pay around $800m more in May.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

24 May 2017
The more people die [in Venezuela], the more the anger grows and the more willing the [Venezuelan] government becomes to respond even more violently. The Washington Post

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
11 May 2017
After years of using elections as plebiscites [...] the government [of Venezuela] can now [...] neither muster the electoral support nor find a convincing reason not to hold a vote. The Washington Post

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
8 May 2017
The U.S. has a role to play in contributing to the international pressure [on Venezuela], but that is best done multilaterally, which is what we have seen so far. Univision

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
29 Apr 2017
[Venezuela's government exercises control] largely through force and the threat to deny government welfare benefits, including food. The Washington Post

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
22 Apr 2017
As the saying goes, [Venezuela's military is] willing to accompany Maduro to the cemetery but not be buried with him. The Washington Post

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
20 Apr 2017
[Some at the top of Venezuela's government] appear genuinely to believe that this is a revolution and the ultimate goal is the replacement of the capitalist economy with one that is entirely state-run. The Washington Post

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes

Latest Updates

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.

Can the Vatican Pull Venezuela Back from the Brink?

Venezuela’s blocking of a recall referendum on ending the presidency of Nicolás Maduro has made a peaceful solution to the country’s festering conflict harder to achieve. Vatican mediation now offers one of the few hopes of progress.

Also available in Español

Crisis-hit Venezuela’s Political Rivals Stumble Towards Talks

Faced with crushing economic stress, a weakening president, a constitutional stalemate and popular unrest, Venezuela’s “Chavista” government and the opposition are feeling their way towards compromise.

La hora de los militares en Venezuela

¿Es Nicolás Maduro quien realmente manda en Venezuela? La gran concentración de poder en manos de los militares sugiere que la estabilidad del país dependerá de la responsabilidad de sus Fuerzas Armadas.

Originally published in Semana

Slow-motion Coup in Venezuela?

Nicolás Maduro was elected president of Venezuela in April 2013 by a narrow margin. His term is due to end in January 2019, unless the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance can force a recall referendum this year – and win it. But does President Maduro really run the country?

Also available in Español

Our People

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
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