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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

Deteriorated Situation

Deadly clashes between military and Colombian guerrilla groups in border region fuelled tensions between Caracas and Bogotá. Amid ongoing fighting between Venezuelan military and alleged dissidents of Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Apure border state, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino 5 April reported nine combatants and eight soldiers killed since violence started 21 March; 28 April reported another eight soldiers killed in renewed combat over past few days. FM Jorge Arreaza 6 April said govt was requesting UN assistance in deactivating anti-personnel mines allegedly planted by guerrilla groups on Venezuelan territory; also asked UN to investigate violence. President Maduro and other govt officials repeatedly accused Colombia’s President Duque of supporting armed groups operating along border and seeking “military escalation” between two countries. Duque 13 April decried Maduro’s leadership as “illegitimate”. NGO Human Rights Watch 26 April accused Venezuelan security forces of “egregious abuses against local residents” during operations in Apure state, including extrajudicial killings of at least four civilians – three men and a woman –, torture, arbitrary arrests and prosecution of civilians in military courts. World Food Programme (WFP) and govt 19 April reached deal over WFP’s access to Venezuela, paving way for supply of 185,000 meals for school children by end of year and up to 1.5mn in 2023. Mainstream opposition leader Juan Guaidó 6 April launched broader political front, comprising his existing four-party coalition and six smaller parties; Guaidó said move would improve coordination within mainstream opposition, but some members complained about lack of consultation ahead of launch. Negotiations continued between Maduro’s govt and moderate opposition leaders notably on appointment of more inclusive National Electoral Council (CNE); Guaidó-led coalition however continued to oppose talks, rejecting any CNE not appointed by “legitimate” (2015-2021) National Assembly. Maduro 18 April said govt had paid required amount to World Health Organization to access COVID-19 vaccines under COVAX mechanism. Meanwhile, in parallel move, Guaidó-led National Assembly 22 April approved use of additional $100mn in govt funds – frozen in U.S. accounts as part of sanctions against Maduro’s govt – to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

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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: What Lies Ahead after Election Clinches Maduro’s Clean Sweep

Following legislative elections, President Nicolás Maduro controls all of Venezuela’s major political institutions. Meanwhile, the country’s crisis deepens apace. An exit remains possible if the government and opposition adjust their zero-sum thinking to admit the need for compromise. The new U.S. administration can help.

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Our People

Phil Gunson

Senior Analyst, Andes

Mariano de Alba

Senior Advocacy Advisor