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.
After rejecting 21 Jan proposal by Vatican-sponsored dialogue facilitators to relaunch talks as plan for “democratic coexistence”, opposition MUD alliance 10 Feb reiterated that return to talks only possible if govt fulfilled its first round commitments; govt reiterated its commitment to dialogue. National Assembly President Julio Borges 10 Feb said MUD had declined proposal by Pope for two sides to meet at Vatican late Jan; papal nuncio said no formal request to reopen talks had been made. OAS Sec Gen Luis Almagro 8 Feb said OAS Permanent Council would not take further action until dialogue was declared over. Contacts continued behind scenes: MUD 10 Feb presented more detailed proposal for renewing talks; facilitators returned to Caracas mid-Feb but without apparently producing any breakthrough. Elections for state governors, due Dec 2016, on hold indefinitely, despite Oct 2016 promise by electoral authority (CNE) President Tibisay Lucena that they would be held mid-2017: CNE board member Tania D’Amelio 10 Feb said elections could not take place until political parties renewed their legal registration, as demanded by Supreme Court (TSJ). CNE 7 Feb required 59 of country’s 62 political parties to re-register by gathering signatures of 5% of voters in at least twelve states within fourteen hours using 390 fingerprint machines provided by CNE, to begin 4 March; many parties complained conditions impossible to fulfil. Ruling PSUV and MUD not required to re-register, however MUD facing possible ban over case before TSJ alleging it committed fraud in 2016 recall referendum process. MUD 17 Feb announced long-awaited internal restructuring, including expansion of its executive from four to nine parties, creating civil society consultative body. U.S. Treasury 13 Feb announced it was blacklisting VP Aissami as alleged drugs “kingpin”; govt condemned move as politically motivated persecution.
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 [Venezuelan] government controls nearly all levers of power while the opposition has the support of the voters. That's why the opposition needs to have elections and why the government doesn't.
If you live in a poor area [in Caracas], you have to get up so early in the morning to leave your house – and many robberies and assaults take place in the early dawn.
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.
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’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