Venezuela’s Prospects for Stability and Democracy

Georgetown University

On February 23, Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, participated in a panel titled, “Politics: Prospects for Stability and Democracy.” This discussion was part of the symposium “Venezuela: Charting the Future” co-hosted by Georgetown University’s Center for Latin American Studies and Latin America Leadership Program. The discussion addressed prospects for political reconciliation, the reestablishment of democracy and human rights, and the role of the international community.

In his remarks, Shifter argued that the ideal long-term outcome is a negotiated solution. But, the environment to pursue this does not exist. The government is unwilling to adhere to free, fair elections and reconciliation talks have gone nowhere.

April’s legislative and presidential elections are widely expected to be rejected by the international community. Assuming the Maduro regime will not leave, Shifter offered two paths which Maduro could pursue: (1) Maduro adopts a single party rule and moderates his governance to obtain international acceptance, or (2) continues his growing authoritarian rule. The latter, Shifted noted, is most likely.

It is difficult to compare Venezuela to other historical cases because of its unique characteristics. This involves the combination of authoritarian rule, widespread criminality and corruption, and oil revenues. Maduro’s regime has also survived because of oil revenues – albeit not a lot – and ideological memory in support of chavismo.

Pressure by the international community was long overdue, according to Shifter. Yet, it will only be effective if there is a strong coherent opposition within Venezuela that can add further pressure to Maduro. Oil sanctions have been proposed by the United States as a possible tool forward. But, its implementation could benefit Maduro with political capital and hurt everyday Venezuelans. Regional neighbors are also seeing the spillovers of the crisis in the influx of refugees in Colombia and Brazil. Right now, there are no good options for the US and other regional actors.

Shifter acknowledged that even when the space for a real negotiation emerges, healing the damage done will be a long-term process.

Watch the full recording of this event here

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