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.
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.
Originally published in Foreign Affairs
Political crisis continued amid international efforts to foster govt-opposition dialogue, while opposition remained divided over whether to negotiate with govt and over allegations of corruption. Opposition split between those seeking dialogue and hardliners pushing for opposition leader and “interim President” Juan Guaidó to request international military intervention. Early June allegations that two of Guaidó’s representatives in Colombia embezzled money assigned to cover cost of Venezuelan military deserters heightened tensions within opposition; anti-dialogue faction, backed by Organization of American States Sec Gen Almagro, demanded full investigation, while Guaidó’s chief representative to Colombia, Humberto Calderón, said investigation began two months ago and neared completion. Russian military plane reportedly landed 24 June; Russian embassy 26 June announced its military specialists were leaving country. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet 19-21 June visited Venezuela, meeting with govt, opposition and victims of human rights abuses; visit followed lengthy UN negotiations with govt over visit, as well as govt’s release of some political prisoners and consent to possible establishment of a permanent UN human rights office in Caracas. Human rights group Penal Forum and relatives of detainees reported govt 21-23 June detained six members of military and police, including an Air Force general; navy captain Rafael Acosta, one of six arrested, who according to Lima Group showed “visible signs of torture” when brought to military tribunal 28 June, died in custody 29 June, sparking opposition and international outcry. International efforts to find negotiated end to crisis continued; Norwegian govt continued push for resumption of May talks between govt and opposition representatives in Oslo; Sweden hosted preliminary meeting of relevant external actors including Russia, Cuba, Vatican and UN 13 June. Amid continued economic deterioration, UN High Commission for Refugees 7 June released updated figures showing 4mn had fled country. Mass migration continued to cause regional strain; Peru 14 June introduced new immigration rules requiring Venezuelans to obtain visa before arriving at border, leading to large increase in numbers arriving in days before deadline, including 6,000 crossing from Ecuador 13 June.
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.
As Venezuela’s socio-economic woes deepen, so do the fissures in the opposition to President Nicolás Maduro’s government. Bridging these rifts is vital if the country’s crisis is to end through a negotiated transition. Outside powers should back opposition unity and stop hinting at military intervention.
Venezuela’s socio-economic implosion is dragging in neighbours as hundreds of thousands of people flee the country, epidemics spread and violent crime spills over borders. International humanitarian support is needed and regional powers should push for a negotiated transition, including through threats of targeted sanctions.
Economic mismanagement, corruption and dwindling reserves have forced Venezuela into penury and now into missed payments and partial default on its debts. Full-scale, internationally supervised negotiations involving a restored parliament are essential to pave the way to a debt restructuring and a free, fair presidential election.
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.
Originally published in The Guardian
A failed uprising by Venezuelan National Assembly Chair Juan Guaidó has emboldened President Nicolás Maduro and deepened the country's political deadlock. However difficult, outside actors should continue to press the two sides to form a transitional cabinet, stabilise Venezuela’s economy and hold elections.
The crippling blackouts across Venezuela are a grim portent of things to come as U.S. oil sanctions kick in and the country’s crisis deepens. All concerned to end Venezuelans’ suffering should vigorously pursue a negotiated transition leading to a power-sharing deal.
The month-old struggle over Venezuela’s presidency shows no sign of resolution and risks a dangerous escalation. With this Statement, Crisis Group's Venezuela Campaign shifts into higher gear with an urgent call to negotiate a political transition and meet humanitarian needs while lessening the prospect of a military intervention.
Originally published in Foreign Affairs