On January 11, WOLA Director for Venezuela Geoff Ramsey was featured in a Q&A in the Inter-American Dialogue’s daily Latin America Advisor, along with Michael Penfold, Moises Rendon, Gabriel Hetland, and Rafael Álvarez Loscher on the change in leadership in the opposition-controlled National Assembly elected in 2015. The question and Ramsey’s response is below. View the full Q&A here.
Q: Venezuela’s opposition National Assembly on Jan. 5 appointed three exiled lawmakers as leaders after voting to remove interim President Juan Guaidó on Dec. 30, dissolve his government and appoint a commission to govern the country’s foreign assets. Guaidó was ousted after three years of efforts to unseat President Nicolás Maduro proved unsuccessful. The triumvirate leadership is formed of three women: Dinorah Figuera, Marianela Fernández and Auristela Vásquez. What does the new leadership mean for Venezuela’s opposition, and can it bring unity? What should its priorities be ahead of the presidential elections slated for 2024?
A: Geoff Ramsey, director for Venezuela at the Washington Office on Latin America: “The decision by Venezuela’s opposition to appoint an all-women directorate for the 2015 National Assembly is important, but long overdue. This is the first time a female opposition figure will serve as president of the body, and it is disappointing that the male-dominated political parties in the anti-Maduro coalition took seven years to reach this decision. The appointment also comes amid questions over the role of the National Assembly now that the opposition has voted to end the interim government experiment. Whether these three brave women will have broad authority to make changes to the opposition’s strategy ahead of the 2024 presidential election—or whether the usual suspects will continue to call the shots from the back room—remains to be seen. In any case, the opposition’s main objectives at this point should be to work for free and fair elections in 2024, and to seek justice for victims of grave human rights violations.
Both priorities can be addressed through principled commitment to the negotiations that restarted in Mexico with the announcement of a $3 billion humanitarian accord. Ensuring the success of this first partial agreement will be key to establishing a basis for future agreements on things like electoral conditions and justice reform. Proper oversight will be essential, and Venezuelan civil society actors should be given a clear channel with which to bring their concerns to the table. Ultimately Venezuela’s opposition, and its international supporters, will have to convince a skeptical public that these talks can actually make a difference.”