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.
Just as Venezuela’s number of COVID-19 cases topped 100, the U.S. indicted President Nicolás Maduro and others on drug trafficking charges. This ill-timed move will likely fail. The only sensible course is sanctions relief and negotiations between government and opposition over a humanitarian truce.
Political standoff continued as opposition leader Juan Guaidó consolidated international standing and govt held military drills, while U.S. launched new sanctions targeting govt. Guaidó 11 Feb returned from foreign tour in which leaders of Colombia, UK, France, Germany, U.S. and EU foreign policy chief received him as head of state; security forces did not arrest Guaidó although he had left country in defiance of travel ban, but anti-Guaidó demonstrators at airport beat and robbed journalists trying to cover his return, authorities arrested Guaidó’s uncle – who was travelling with him – on accusations of bringing explosives into country and 17 Feb suspended operations in country of airline which had carried him home on same accusations. Govt 15-16 Feb held nationwide military exercises involving both army and civilian militia, volunteer reservist force created by former President Chavez and formally incorporated to regular forces in early Feb, with President Maduro claiming involvement of 2.3mn troops, while security forces deployed Russian-built surface-to-air missiles near Caracas international airport and at eastern Caracas air base; Maduro 17 Feb said exercises would continue indefinitely. U.S. 7 Feb announced sanctions against state-run airline Conviasa and 17 Feb against trading arm of Russian state-linked oil company Rosneft, reportedly responsible for 70% of Venezuela’s oil exports and supplying govt with oil products; in response, Maduro 18 Feb declared oil industry emergency and named presidential commission headed by former VP Tareck El Aissami to restructure sector. Authorities late Feb announced they would allow companies to raise capital in foreign currency as Maduro liberalises economy. Despite ongoing disagreement on who presides National Assembly, govt and opposition 26 Feb agreed on composition of parliamentary committee to propose new members of electoral authority.
Venezuela’s political showdown appears deadlocked. President Nicolás Maduro remains firmly in place over a year after the opposition behind Juan Guaidó mounted its campaign to supplant him. The gap between the sides is wide, but conversations with pragmatists reveal the outlines of a potential compromise.
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.
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.
The struggle over Venezuela’s political future will likely turn on the armed forces’ disposition: the top brass could ease or thwart a move away from President Nicolás Maduro. Sponsors of transition talks should include military representatives in the discussions sooner rather than later.
The UN General Assembly kicks off on 17 September amid general scepticism about the world body’s effectiveness in an era of rising great-power competition. But the UN is far from paralysed. Here are seven crisis spots where it can make a positive difference for peace.
A discreet Norwegian diplomatic effort represents the best hope for breaking Venezuela's political deadlock. To stop the country’s slide into humanitarian and economic catastrophe, pragmatic backers of both government and opposition should put aside empty hopes of outright victory and support a negotiated settlement.
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.
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.
Maduro is essentially calling Trump’s bluff. Maduro has essentially concluded that the military option is a very remote possibility.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
In Caracas, International Crisis Group asked government officials, opposition activists and political analysts alike to speak to camera about their views on how to resolve Venezuela's catastrophic political and humanitarian crisis.
Gold and migrants stream across the stretch of the Cuyuní river that marks the Guyana-Venezuela border. Guerrillas and criminal organisations control much of the flow. Their turf wars are already spilling over and could intensify if foreign powers intervene to topple Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Talks to resolve Venezuela’s impasse collapsed on 15 September only for the government to announce a deal – with a different set of opponents. In this Q&A, Crisis Group Senior Andes Analyst Phil Gunson explains what these developments mean for the country’s political and socio-economic crisis.