For long-suffering Venezuelans beleaguered by political repression and economic deprivation, the dawn of 2019 brought a ray of hope. Juan Guaidó’s election as leader of the National Assembly, and his recognition by almost 60 nations as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president, offered the country a viable opposition figure, an alternative vision, and a potential pathway out of its democratic and humanitarian crises.
One year later, the view from Caracas and beyond looks very different. Buttressed by a successful recent tour of Europe and North America, Guaidó retains his claim of formal authority and continues to enjoy significant support at home and abroad. Venezuela’s economy remains the worst performing in the world and its citizens continue to flee the country in record numbers. Nonetheless, the regime of Nicolás Maduro holds on.
A new report by the Venezuela Working Group, an initiative of the Inter-American Dialogue’s Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program, proposes a framework for future action based on a realistic assessment of Venezuela’s current trajectory. The report argues that the situation in Venezuela merits the continued, principled engagement of governments in the Americas and the broader international community—to defend democracy and human rights, protect the vulnerable, and pursue diplomacy.
A FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION
- Sticks and Carrots
A genuine negotiated solution requires both good faith from the parties and guarantors able to ensure agreements are not just achieved but implemented. Unfortunately, the Maduro regime has not yet demonstrated that it believes its position would improve through a negotiated agreement. Changing this calculus will require smart, sustained pressure on the regime, as well as credible guarantees and incentives, both personal and institutional. While sanctions are not themselves a strategy, they do constitute an essential instrument of a strategy oriented toward a political solution and should be optimized accordingly, including by taking into account unintended consequences such as collateral impacts on the humanitarian situation of Venezuelans.
- New Voices and Broader Conversations
As polarized and unyielding as formal politics are in Venezuela today, there are leaders from different walks of life prepared to pay the political price of advocating a negotiated solution to the country’s crisis, with its inevitable trade-offs and compromises. This suggests a need to deepen the structured conversation about Venezuela’s future and, above all, expand it to include alternative spaces and incorporate voices from beyond the realm of formal politics. It is also an argument for doing everything possible to preserve whatever formal democratic space still exists in Venezuela, including most clearly the National Assembly.
- Oslo Reconsidered
A swift return to the negotiating table in Venezuela is currently improbable, and indeed would likely prove counterproductive. However, a negotiated pathway to free, fair, transparent, and competitive elections remains the most convenient and viable solution to the Venezuelan crisis. The agenda, methodology, points of consensus, and choice of mediator established in the Norway talks remain a basis from which to operate, if and when negotiations can be revived. At the same time, future efforts must analyze and adjust for the shortcomings and ultimate breakdown of the Norway process.
- Venezuelans First
Venezuelans continue to suffer the consequences of an unprecedented economic and institutional collapse. The fundamental causes of this collapse will persist as long as the Maduro regime remains in control. However, the political impasse in Caracas should not divert urgency and focus from the international community’s efforts to address Venezuela’s human rights violations, its complex humanitarian emergency, and their collective spillover effects, especially mass migration. Significantly augmenting support for Venezuelans in need, inside and outside the country, is both a humanitarian and strategic imperative.
Follow our report online with #VenezuelaForward.
This report is made possible thanks to support from the Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation.
DOWNLOAD THE REPORT HERE.
This is the third report in a series by the Venezuela Working Group that includes the following:
No Strangers at the Gate – October 2018
Transition Interrupted – April 2019