The International Standoff Over Venezuela

CGTN

Energy Program Director Lisa Viscidi went on CGTN to discuss the latest developments in the increasingly international debate over how to peacefully resolve the crisis in embattled Venezuela. 

What do you make of what we saw at the UN Security Council yesterday, with dueling resolutions both rejected? What can the UN do at this point with member states so polarized? 

“This really shows how the world is divided, with the US, many European countries, and the majority of major Latin American countries supporting the opposition in Venezuela, and Russia, as well as China, continuing to support Maduro. As long as those two countries have veto power there’s going to be a stalemate. There’s not a lot that the UN can do and it would probably be much later and after real free and fair elections that they would recognize a new government.”

The US strategy up until this point has been to apply pressure on Maduro’s government. Is this the right approach? Is there a chance that this could backfire, with Maduro and his supporters saying the US is trying to overthrow them in a plot?

“There is a possibility of a backfire. The US policy is to put international diplomatic pressure on Venezuela and create a coalition of countries that are on the side of the opposition. That is welcomed by many countries in Latin America and around the world. At the same time, the other side of the approach is economic pressure, and we’re already seeing a lot of impacts of the sanctions. We’re already seeing reports that there are more gasoline shortages in the country because they can’t import gasoline or it’s much more difficult. There are electricity shortages in rural areas because they can’t import diesel for power generation. Venezuela is having difficulty finding buyers for its crude oil, which no longer can go to the US. That’s going to have an impact on the humanitarian situation and so that’s where people might start to criticize. If Maduro doesn’t fall and we don’t see a good outcome fairly quickly, people will start to say, ‘Why did you make the economic situation for the Venezuelan people worse?’”

How do you see this playing out in the coming days and weeks? Maduro is not going anywhere, at least not at this point. Juan Guaidó doesn’t have the support of top military leaders. How do we resolve this impasse peacefully?

“It’s still very hard to predict at this point. The more time goes on that the majority of the military or the leaders of the military don’t support Guaidó, the less likely it is to happen. But we still don’t know for sure know whether they won’t change. Some have left. But it’s looking increasingly unlikely. There’s still a possibility for negotiation. The opposition is not going to just go into the negotiations as they had in the past without some initial kind of promise that there will be elections. They want to see some sort of concrete commitment before they go to the negotiating table, which has been used in the past by Maduro as a delay tactic. Hopefully there’s still a possibility for negotiation. That would be really the only peaceful way.”

Is there any doubt that this country is in a huge humanitarian crisis? Maduro seems to think Venezuela is not facing severe food and medicine shortages.

“Clearly there’s lots of evidence of a humanitarian crisis that is getting worse, and the attempts to bring in aid from the US have failed. There is still some aid coming into the country from international and local aid organizations, but there’s certainly a severe crisis which I think is going to get worse because if Venezuela can’t export all of its oil then it’s going to receive even less international foreign currency that it needs to buy food and basics for the people.”

Watch the full interview here