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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

Govt and opposition maintained hardline stances amid ongoing international efforts to end political crisis, while nationwide electricity blackouts signalled devastating effects of failing to resolve it. Opposition leader and  “interim President” Juan Guaidó, recognised by U.S. and allies, returned to Venezuela 4 March following regional tour, arriving at Caracas airport despite speculation he would be arrested. Police 21 March arrested Guaidó’s chief of staff Roberto Marrero, later charged in connection with alleged “terrorist plot”; U.S. Sec State Pompeo warned of “consequences”, although U.S. officials downplayed likelihood of military intervention. Massive electric grid failure 7 March left around 90% of country without power, with Caracas suffering blackout for two days and other areas for over a week; blackout led to cut-off in water supplies and communications, unknown number of deaths in hospitals as back-generators failed, and outbreaks of looting, particularly in Maracaibo city (north west). President Maduro’s govt blamed sabotage by U.S. and local allies, although experts reportedly blamed fire underneath power lines and faulty maintenance. Widespread and lengthy blackouts returned 25 March, which this time govt blamed on “sniper”, and again 29 March. Two Russian military planes landed 23 March, reportedly carrying military equipment and dozens of troops; Russia cited fulfilment of existing military contracts, but U.S. President Trump 27 March said Russia must “get out”. International Federation of the Red Cross 29 March said it had reached agreement with govt and opposition to begin mass aid relief mid-April. Amid increasing tensions with international actors backing Guaidó, govt 6 March declared German ambassador (who accompanied Guaidó on his return from airport in official vehicle) persona non grata, giving him 48 hours to leave. U.S. 14 March removed last diplomats from Venezuela and closed embassy; FM Arreaza said govt expelled them while Pompeo said their presence had been “constraint” on U.S. policy. International Contact Group, headed by EU and Uruguay, met at ministerial level in Quito, Ecuador 28 March, sent mission to Caracas mid-March primarily to discuss humanitarian assistance; Contact Group has given itself until May to determine whether mediated settlement is possible.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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
27 Nov 2018
[Miners in Venezuela] are severely at risk of being shot dead: Mining communities have phenomenally high homicide rates, even by the extraordinary high levels that we see in the rest of Venezuela. NPR

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
16 Apr 2018
People [in Venezuela] are moving to the countryside because you can more or less survive if you have a small plot of land and access to your own produce. Miami Herald

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
13 Mar 2018
Increased prices can be charged to [Venezuelan] migrants because of their sheer desire to cross [the border to reach Colombia]. IRIN

Ivan Briscoe

Program Director, Latin America and Caribbean
12 Jan 2018
The prognosis [for Venezuela in] 2018 is further deterioration, humanitarian emergency, and an increased exodus of Venezuelans. Sustained domestic and international pressure will be required. Reuters

Robert Malley

President & CEO

Latest Updates

Q&A / Latin America & Caribbean

High Noon over Humanitarian Aid at Venezuela’s Border

Venezuela’s constitutional crisis continues to unfold, with the opposition amassing food and medicine on the borders with the stated intent of turning the military against President Nicolás Maduro, who is refusing the aid. In this Q&A, our Senior Analyst for Venezuela Phil Gunson explains the standoff.

Also available in Español

What We Heard in Caracas

President Trump’s tough talk and actions opened the door for change in Venezuela. Now the U.S. must avoid hardline inflexibility that could close it, ending the chance of achieving internal peace through an interim power arrangement between the country’s duelling presidents.


Also available in Español

Mexico’s New Neutrality in the Venezuela Crisis

Bucking the U.S. and several large and influential Latin American states, Mexico has not recognised Juan Guaidó’s claim on Venezuela’s presidency, and has instead argued for negotiations to end the country’s crisis. As Crisis Group’s Senior Mexico Analyst Falko Ernst explains, this position is rooted in a new Mexican foreign policy doctrine.

Also available in Español

Venezuela – A Rough Road Ahead

Venezuela’s profound political turmoil has displaced millions and now threatens to turn into a dangerous military confrontation. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage and support a negotiated outcome to the crisis.

Also available in Español

Our People

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes