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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.

CrisisWatch Venezuela

Unchanged Situation

Amid enduring political crisis, civil society created coalition to address tensions and mainstream opposition remained divided over strategy. Large group of civil society organisations, including NGOs, religious bodies, trade unions and country’s main business union Fedecámaras 5 Feb launched platform Foro Cívico Nacional (FNC) in bid to establish counterweight to both govt and opposition, and contribute to solving social and political crisis. FCN’s intention to seek partial, sectoral agreements with govt on economic and humanitarian relief sparked heated debate in opposition circles, with some arguing that approach undermines possibility of full-scale negotiation on “re-institutionalisation”. Mainstream opposition leader Juan Guaidó 3 Feb rejected idea of participating in regional elections due this year, even as some parties that compose mainstream opposition prepared to take part; National Assembly next day set up committee in charge of processing applications for new National Electoral Council, expected to be appointed in early April. In positive step, govt and Guaidó-led opposition, in collaboration with Pan American Health Organization and UN children’s fund (UNICEF), 11 Feb agreed to cooperate to purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines for 6mn people; opposition health policy advisers and govt representatives subsequently met to discuss distribution and oversight, and created joint technical team. Following two-week visit to Venezuela, UN special rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures and human rights, Alena Douhan, 12 Feb urged U.S., EU and other states to drop sanctions, citing “dramatic” effects on population. Guaidó-led opposition same day accused Douhan of falling into President Maduro’s “propaganda”, said economic collapse began before imposition of economic sanctions. EU Council 22 Feb imposed sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on 19 high-level officials accused of undermining democracy or violating human rights; in response, govt 24 Feb declared head of EU delegation in Caracas Isabel Brilhante “persona non grata”, giving her 72 hours to leave country. EU next day responded with reciprocal measure. Colombian President Duque 8 Feb granted ten-year protection statute to about 1mn undocumented Venezuelan migrants, allowing them to work and to access health and education services.
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Reports & Briefings

In The News

7 Dec 2020
Unless he [Guaidó] is able to reinvent himself in some way, I think the Guaidó plan has clearly failed. The Guardian

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
11 Aug 2020
[Venezuela's] health service had collapsed long before sanctions were imposed. Foreign Policy

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
7 Jul 2020
[The Venezuelan Government] want[s] to make it quite clear that Guaidó is history. Minneapolis Star Tribune

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
12 Apr 2020
If there's mass social unrest [in Venezuela] they are not really in a position to control it and I think that's the government's nightmare scenario. BBC News

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
4 Apr 2020
What the [Venezuelan] regime is facing now is much more grave than they’ve ever faced before. BloombergQuint

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes
31 Mar 2020
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. The Guadian

Ivan Briscoe

Program Director, Latin America and Caribbean

Latest Updates

Venezuela’s Opposition Is Clinging to a Failed Strategy

Opposition politicians in Venezuela face a difficult set of choices. But the sooner they face up to them, the sooner Venezuela can begin to tackle the enormous challenges of a much-needed political transition and economic reconstruction.

Originally published in World Politics Review

Latin America’s Tough Year Ahead

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh, Richard Atwood and Ivan Briscoe, Crisis Group’s Latin America Director, talk about COVID-19’s devastation, polarisation and populism in the region, as well as the Venezuela crisis and violence in Mexico.

Podcast / United States

U.S. Sanctions: An Overused Foreign Policy Tool?

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood discuss the “maximum pressure” sanctions that the U.S. has imposed upon Iran and Venezuela. Their guests are Crisis Group’s experts on these two countries, Ali Vaez and Phil Gunson.

Venezuela Court Rulings Bury Hopes of a Fair Poll

The Maduro government’s latest power play – in which loyalist judges appointed the board that will oversee end-of-year elections – is evidence to many in the Venezuelan opposition that talking is fruitless. But negotiations remain the only route to a stable outcome for the country’s protracted crisis.

Also available in Español

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Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes