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.
With a collapsing health care system, sky-rocketing inflation and crippling state controls, Venezuela is beset by unprecedented social and economic crises. To end the root problem of political paralysis, the Chavista government and opposition must use outside-mediated negotiation to restore democratic and responsible economic governance.
President Maduro’s appointment of Aragua state governor and former Interior Minister Tareck el Aissami as new VP 4 Jan seen as further step away from dialogue with opposition and toward confrontation. Aissami, replacing relative moderate Aristóbulo Istúriz, has been accused of ties with drug-traffickers and Middle Eastern extremists. Maduro charged Aissami with heading newly-created “Anti-Coup Command”; Aissami deployed intelligence service SEBIN to arrest several opposition politicians, including MP Gilber Caro, accused of plotting acts of terrorism. Aissami declared Voluntad Popular party “unconstitutional”, described its leaders as criminals and terrorists. Conflict of powers between executive and legislature worsened. Opposition-led National Assembly (AN) 9 Jan approved motion declaring Maduro had “abandoned his post” in constitutional terms by failing to address country’s multiple problems, no longer legitimate president. Govt-controlled supreme court (TSJ) 15 Jan reaffirmed AN was “in contempt” of its rulings and had violated its own internal rules, hence all actions null and void – including motion against president and 5 Jan election of its chairman and other officers. TSJ 9 Jan ordered that outgoing chairman Henry Ramos Allup (Acción Democrática) be reinstated while alleged contempt persists; legislature refused. TSJ also authorised Maduro to give his annual address not to parliament but to TSJ 15 Jan; during address Maduro said AN had “dissolved itself”. Talks between govt and opposition did not resume. MUD’s internal divisions appeared to worsen, with calls for alliance to be restructured and for Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba to step down as Sec Gen. Nuevo Tiempo party (UNT) led by Manuel Rosales and Avanzada Progresista continue to insist on dialogue. Rosales’ 31 Dec release from house arrest widely perceived in opposition as reward to UNT for promoting dialogue; following 12 July rally Rosales was congratulated in public by Maduro.
Venezuela is in full-fledged crisis: food and medicine are scarce, violent crime is surging, and the government is blocking democratic ways forward. The international community and the Organization of American States should press for political dialogue, the opening of legal paths to a presidential recall referendum in 2016, and permission for humanitarian aid to enter the country.
After a crushing defeat in parliamentary elections, Venezuela’s Chavista government needs to move away from confrontation. The executive must join the new legislative majority in a cooperation pact that can lead the country from deadlock to open democracy, and save it from a looming economic and humanitarian disaster.
Alongside Venezuela’s growing political tension, the collapse of the country’s economy and health care system are leading to an equally dangerous social crisis. To stave off a humanitarian disaster that could well turn today’s polarisation violent, Venezuela needs an emergency program, careful reform of price controls, political consensus, and international support.
The end of street protests does not mean the end of Venezuela’s crisis. Rising economic problems and unaddressed political demands could lead to renewed violence and threaten national stability.
Failure to resolve the Venezuelan crisis could plunge the country into yet more violence, leaving it unable to address soaring criminality and economic decline and exposing the inability of regional inter-governmental bodies to manage the continent’s conflicts.
The peaceful electoral solution has been taken off the table so what's left to the opposition is to put as much pressure as they can [on President Maduro of Venezuela] in order to persuade the army to change sides and to invite international pressure.
La esperanza es que una reducción de los niveles de conflicto armado, así como en el futuro de la actividad criminal en las regiones periféricas y fronterizas de Colombia, ayude a normalizar el comercio entre ese país y Venezuela
The gradual expansion of military powers [in Venezuela] in response to the regime’s loss of legitimacy is starting to resemble a slow-motion coup.
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.
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.
¿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
Originally published in Open Democracy
The results of the December 2015 parliamentary elections could have been an opportunity to seek a negotiated solution to Venezuela's protracted political crisis. Instead, the country is in a spiral of confrontation and chaos. In this video, Crisis Group Andes Senior Analyst Phil Gunson, and former Crisis Group Latin America Program Director Javier Ciurlizza explain how political confrontation, economic mismanagement and crime have pushed Venezuela to the brink of collapse.