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Venezuela

Venezuela is in the midst of a tense political standoff and socio-economic meltdown, with hyperinflation, rising crime and food shortages pushing some three million citizens to flee the country. Incumbent President Nicolás Maduro has grabbed power for the executive and engineered his re-election in a dubious vote, triggering moves backed by the U.S. and allies to unseat him and instal an interim president. A negotiated restoration of democracy and urgent economic reform are vital if the country is to avoid violence 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 credible democratic and judicial systems.

CrisisWatch Venezuela

Deteriorated Situation

Political crisis escalated further as President Maduro’s govt took series of steps to strengthen control over electoral framework and silence opposition ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for Dec. After talks between govt and opposition led by Juan Guaidó over composition of new electoral authority (CNE) broke down early June, govt-controlled Supreme Court 12 June appointed new CNE with absolute majority for Maduro allies and no seat for Guaidó-led opposition; Supreme Court also ordered changes to electoral law expanding seats in National Assembly from 167 to over 200, increasing number of lawmakers elected through party list rather than individually and modifying method for electing legislators representing indigenous communities; opposition leaders including Guaidó immediately rejected ruling, insisted only National Assembly is constitutionally allowed to elect CNE members. In following days, Supreme Court named new leaders, representing dissident factions more lenient toward govt, for two out of four parties that compose mainstream opposition – Acción Democrática 15 June and Primero Justicia 16 June – and 17 June threatened third party Un Nuevo Tiempo with same fate; Supreme Court also reportedly looked to dissolve fourth party, Guaidó’s Voluntad Popular. International actors including EU, U.S., regional body Lima Group and EU/Uruguay-led International Contact Group mid-June condemned recent moves as further deterioration of political crisis. After EU 29 June imposed sanctions on 11 senior officials for “undermining democracy and rule of law”, Maduro same day ordered EU ambassador to leave country within 72 hours. Previously, govt and opposition 2 June said they had reached agreement with Pan American Health Organization to cooperate to raise funds to address COVID-19 pandemic; humanitarian organisations celebrated move as precedent that could allow broader agreements.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

12 Apr 2020
If there's mass social unrest [in Venezuela] they are not really in a position to control it and I think that's the government's nightmare scenario. BBC News

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
4 Apr 2020
What the [Venezuelan] regime is facing now is much more grave than they’ve ever faced before. BloombergQuint

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
31 Mar 2020
If the virus were to take off in Venezuela, and the country were not to receive a huge injection of international support, it would face an absolute disaster. The Guadian

Ivan Briscoe

Program Director, Latin America and Caribbean
26 Mar 2020
If you’re going to cause the collapse of [the Venezuelan] government in the middle of a pandemic, then you will be responsible for instilling chaos. HuffPost

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
21 Mar 2019
Maduro is essentially calling Trump’s bluff. Maduro has essentially concluded that the military option is a very remote possibility. The New York Times

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
7 Feb 2019
The Maduro team doesn’t want to talk to [the opposition] and doesn’t trust them. They think they will all end up in jail or strung up from lampposts. Wall Street Journal

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes

Latest Updates

Hunger Looms in Venezuela’s Standoff

Venezuela has so far been spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the global economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus, on top of the existing humanitarian emergency and the impact of U.S. sanctions, threatens to produce a catastrophe. In this excerpt from the Spring Edition of our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to support a resolution of the political crisis and to take measures to alleviate the humanitarian emergency.

Also available in Español

Under a Merciless Sun: Venezuelans Stranded Across the Colombian Border

As Venezuela’s economy plumbs the depths of collapse, a new cohort of refugees is trekking across parched landscapes to Colombia. It consists of the most vulnerable, including poor expectant mothers, unaccompanied children and the sick, people with no defence against the predations of armed bands.

Also available in Español

A Glut of Arms: Curbing the Threat to Venezuela from Violent Groups

Power in Venezuela is slipping away from state institutions and concentrating in the hands of criminals, guerrillas and other non-state actors. Any new negotiations between government and opposition must consider how to defang these armed irregulars, who might otherwise scuttle an eventual settlement.

Also available in Español

Seizure of Parliament Plunges Venezuela into Deeper Turmoil

The government of Nicolás Maduro has seized control of Venezuela’s parliament, robbing the opposition of its platform for negotiating a way out of the country’s political crisis. An already long, damaging conflict could drag on if outside powers cannot persuade the government to reverse course.

Also available in Español

Peace in Venezuela: Is There Life after the Barbados Talks?

The standoff between Venezuela’s government and opposition has reached a worrying juncture, with negotiations falling apart, side deals emerging and regional states rolling out new sanctions on Caracas. Resuming the talks is the safest path to an exit from the country’s ever deepening crisis.

Also available in Español

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Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
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