On Saturday the New York Times published my op ed inspired by the drone attack on Nicolás Maduro (leer en New York Times Español). Here is the main point:

“No one knows whether the Maduro regime will last decades or days. But this drone attack should be a warning to international stakeholders. To achieve an orderly, democratic and nonviolent solution to the Venezuelan crisis, international pressure must be complemented by constructive engagement of both the government and opposition.”

Despite all of the image-work the Maduro government does to make itself look strong, any objective look at the crisis of governance they are presiding over, as well as the superficiality of their support, would suggest the contrary.

Hemispheric stakeholders need to compliment their pressure with engagement of Venezuela. Without engagement, any transition that occurs will likely be even less-democratic. With it, there are no guarantees, but there is a higher probability of an actual reestablishment of democracy.

Of course, one big reason a weak government is able to continue on is the breathing space a dysfunctional opposition has granted it. Here as well, the international community can contribute to the situation by prioritizing politicians still in Venezuela rather than political leaders in exile. The latter have an interest in there not being a political agreement they will be left out of; and safely abroad they would not suffer the consequences of the extreme measures they advocate–such as general economic sanctions or foreign military intervention.

History suggests that the least worst path for a return to democracy in Venezuela would be a political pact that leads to elections. To learn more about some historical examples, from Chile to Poland to South Africa, I would suggest Sergio Bitar and Abraham Lowenthal’s Democratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders.