Venezuela is in the midst of a tense political standoff and socio-economic meltdown, with hyperinflation, violent crime, political repression and food shortages pushing nearly six million citizens to flee the country. Incumbent President Nicolás Maduro has grabbed power for the executive and dismantled democratic checks and balances, triggering moves backed by the U.S. and allies to unseat him and install an interim president. A negotiated restoration of legitimate and representative state institutions as well as urgent economic reform are vital if the country is to resolve the political crisis peacefully 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 the rule of law.
Bogotá and Caracas are back on cordial terms after a period of rancour. Their interests may not always align precisely in the years ahead. But with deft diplomacy, and help from neighbours, the two countries can nonetheless keep repairing their links to mutual benefit.
In major blow to prospects for competitive 2024 presidential poll, govt announced opposition frontrunner is barred from holding public office for 15 years, meaning she is unable to participate in election; govt also moved to replace national electoral council.
Key opposition figure banned from running in presidential election. 14 candidates officially registered by 24 June deadline to enter race for opposition primary election, scheduled for Oct to select single candidate for 2024 presidential election. Yet in worrying challenge to free elections in Venezuela, govt-controlled Comptroller General’s Office 30 June said sanction imposed against frontrunner María Corina Machado in 2015 prevents her from holding public office for 15 years, meaning she is banned from running in presidential election. In rare show of unity, opposition candidates immediately rejected Machado’s disqualification, as did other govts such as Colombia and U.S., who said ban “deprives the Venezuelan people of basic political rights”.
Govt kickstarted process to appoint new electoral council. Govt-controlled National Assembly 15 June voted to replace National Electoral Council’s (CNE) 15-member board (five principal members and ten substitutes), claiming they had resigned en masse, even though the two independent principals did not step down until 19, 20 June. Despite its pro-govt majority, reports suggested govt did not trust CNE to do its bidding unconditionally in 2024 presidential poll. Legislators same day formed commission, most of whose 11 members belong to ruling party, to appoint new CNE. NGO Human Rights Watch 22 June said govt’s decision “increases concerns for the prospect of free and fair presidential election” in 2024. In response, opposition Unitary Platform’s National Primary Commission 16 June said it would not seek CNE assistance for primary election; commission had wanted assistance with voting centres and use of official polling machines to expand scale of vote and help bolster credibility of election outcome.
In other important developments. UN refugee agency 14 June announced Venezuelan asylum applications had increased 186% in 2022 to 264,000. International Criminal Court 27 June ruled prosecutors can resume investigation into potential crimes against humanity in Venezuela after concluding govt’s enquiry was insufficient; prosecutor had paused initial investigation in April 2022, deferring to govt request to conduct its own probe.
El Gobierno de Maduro [en Venezuela] tiene un interés en dar algunas concesiones desde el punto de vista político y electoral.
[Venezuelan President Maduro] can use repression and fraud to stay in power. But I think he would far rather win a relatively clean election.
Venezuela’s international isolation is easing, though its political crisis remains unresolved. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group explains what the EU and its member states can do to pave the way for progress in negotiations between government and opposition.
Crisis Group experts talk in this Twitter Space about what can be done to better protect Venezuelan migrants fleeing to Colombia from exploitation by criminal armed groups. The discussion was hosted by Bram Ebus, consultant for Latin America, Mariano de Alba, our senior advocacy advisor for Latin America and Glaeldys González, Giustra fellow for Latin America.
In recent years, Venezuelans have streamed into Colombia looking for work and respite from their country’s socio-economic meltdown. But dangers also await them, including the clutches of organised crime. Bogotá’s change of government is a chance to reset policy to keep the migrants safer.
Hugo Chavez's charisma fuelled his revolution in Venezuela, but as Crisis Group expert Phil Gunson explains in this photo essay, part of a larger project on deadly violence in Latin America, part of his legacy is also rising crime and hunger.
In this week’s Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood is joined by Crisis Group’s Iran expert Naysan Rafati and Venezuela expert Phil Gunson to discuss the Ukraine war’s global repercussions.
High-ranking U.S. officials made a surprise trip to Venezuela’s capital, hinting at efforts to improve bilateral relations and end the standoff between the Maduro government and its opponents. The backdrop is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which just might be changing strategic calculations an ocean away.
The political standoff in Venezuela continues as the country sinks deeper into socio-economic distress. Renewed talks between government and opposition – now on hold – give external partners of both sides an opening to push harder for resolution of the impasse. They should seize the opportunity.
The deadlock between President Maduro's government and the opposition is generating a humanitarian emergency in Venezuela. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to maintain contact with all opposition groups, engage with the government to restore representative politics and the rule of law, support international efforts for negotiations and increase aid.
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