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.
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.
Despite reports of attempts to revive Norway-facilitated negotiations between Maduro regime and opposition led by Juan Guaidó, prospects for resumption of talks remained remote; govt and minority parties involved in National Dialogue initiative continued to insist they offer route to political settlement. Process of releasing political prisoners appeared to have stalled, however month saw progress on formation of parliamentary commission that will consider changing composition of National Electoral Council, key element of deal struck between govt and minority parties. National Assembly 13 Nov approved nine-member committee that, along with yet-to-be-chosen members of civil society, will appoint commission; three members belong to ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). On international front, resignation and exile of Bolivian President Evo Morales (see Bolivia) following his controversial re-election bid gave encouragement to Venezuelan opposition; interim govt in La Paz immediately recognised Guaidó as interim president, along with El Salvador bringing number of countries who do so to 56. Guaidó called nationwide demonstrations for 16 Nov, however attendance in tens of thousands in Caracas and smaller numbers elsewhere seen as disappointing; thousands of govt supporters also rallied. Amid speculation over foreign policy position of new left-leaning Argentine govt, incoming Argentine FM 29 Nov said that his country would not leave Lima Group, set up in 2017 to address Venezuela’s crisis, and that foreign relations should not be ideological in nature; Argentina also likely to join Mexico-led Montevideo mechanism, which advocates unconditional talks between Venezuelan govt and opposition; however new Uruguayan government under Luis Lacalle seen as likely to leave it.
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.
In recent years Venezuela’s political and economic implosion has become a major headache for much of Latin America. Regional governments should seek to find common ground and coordinate their efforts with the EU’s International Contact Group to push for a negotiated transition.
Across swathes of southern Venezuela, army units, Colombian guerrillas and crime syndicates jostle for control over gold mines funnelling hard currency to President Nicolás Maduro’s government. Outside powers should stop considering military intervention and instead help broker a peaceful transition in Venezuela, lest chaos ensue.
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.
Increased prices can be charged to [Venezuelan] migrants because of their sheer desire to cross [the border to reach Colombia].
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.
The frontier between Brazil and its crisis-ridden neighbour Venezuela has become a major migration route, a hotspot for crime and a flashpoint for violence.
The frontier between Brazil and its crisis-ridden neighbour Venezuela has become a major migration route, a hotspot for crime and a flashpoint for violence. This is the first of three commentaries on Venezuela’s troubled borderlands.