On Tuesday, April 27, the National Assembly elected in December 2020 received the list of 103 candidates to be considered for the National Electoral Council (CNE), the electoral authority in Venezuela. The final list of 15 individuals—5 primary members, and 10 supplementary members—to serve on the electoral council for the next 7 years is expected to be announced within the next week.
The Nomination Committee’s submission of 103 candidates, pared down from the original list of more than 150 prospective rectors, initiates a 10-day deliberation process within the PSUV-dominated National Assembly to decide on the final CNE makeup, with the deadline for the decision on Friday, May 7. However, the process does not have to take up the full 10 days, and some within the National Assembly have indicated that the final list of names may be released much sooner. The deliberations come after civil society coalition Foro Cívico presented a list of 15 candidates to be considered for roles within the CNE in March, calling on authorities to appoint a credible and representative electoral authority ahead of regional elections that are due to be held this fall.
The National Assembly’s decision has high stakes, as the Biden administration has indicated that the naming of a credible CNE may be considered a sign of ‘good faith’ from the Maduro government which could potentially lead to sanctions relief or a path to negotiations. On Monday, information about the ongoing negotiations was leaked suggesting that Elvis Amoroso, a hardline chavista ally and the current Comptroller General of Venezuela, may be selected as CNE president. The information—which has not been officially confirmed—prompted outcry from some in civil society who warned that the new CNE mustn’t include “open militants” in order to be considered a sign of good faith by the Maduro government.
Ahead of the National Assembly’s announcement, the opposition led by Juan Guaidó has published statements preemptively rejecting the new CNE as a “unilateral” action by the PSUV-aligned National Assembly elected in December.
- On Monday, AP News reported that the Maduro government is actively appealing to the Biden administration by making concessions in areas including access for the UN World Food Programme, negotiations with the opposition over access to COVAX vaccines, and the new CNE set to be announced in the coming days. In a recorded interview this week with Luz Mely Reyes of Efecto Cocuyo, WOLA’s Geoff Ramsey suggests that, if successful, these efforts may pave the way for a new negotiations framework.
- On Monday, Jorge Rodriguez announced that the PSUV-controlled National Assembly is on track to pass a law that Reuters reports would allow the Maduro government to secretly sign deals with private companies to evade U.S. sanctions on the state-owned oil company. A similar “anti-blockade” law was passed in October 2020 by the parallel Constituent National Assembly.
- A new audit report published by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) presents evidence that the delivery and distribution of U.S. humanitarian aid to Venezuela in 2019 “lacked risk management requirements.” Most notably, the report exposes that, out of 368 tons of emergency supplies designated for Venezuela, only 8 tons ever reached Venezuela, while the remaining 360 tons of aid was distributed within Colombia or shipped to Somalia.
- On April 23, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke for the first time with Ecuadorian President-Elect Guillermo Lasso. According to the State Department readout of the call, the two discussed their support for efforts to “restore democracy” in Venezuela, and Blinken reiterated the U.S.’s commitment to support Ecuador in its assistance to the more than 430,000 Venezuelan migrants in the country.
- In a virtual meeting, National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez and Chinese parliamentary leader Li Zhanshu discussed China’s continued support in the form of COVID-19 vaccines and humanitarian aid, and agreed to form a “Venezuela-China Group of Interparliamentary Friendship” to advance cooperation between the two countries’ legislatures.
- In response to reports that the Biden administration is considering easing sanctions on Venezuela in the wake of recent concessions by the Maduro government, U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) denounced the move on Twitter, stating that Maduro is a “ruthless thug who is committing genocide” and that Biden must maintain sanctions on the country.
- On the night of April 23, after over a week without confrontations, violent clashes broke out in an unpopulated area of Apure state after an apparent ambush by a FARC dissident group on a Venezuelan military encampment. In response to the attacks, in which 8 Venezuelan soldiers reportedly died, the Maduro government vowed to intensify its military presence along the border.
- On April 29, reports emerged suggesting that several members of the Jivi indigenous community were killed in an apparent dispute with armed guerrilla groups over control of the El Silencio mine in Sucre, Bolivar state. The news comes less than a week after New York Times published an article illustrating the lack of state presence in rural regions of Venezuela, and the impact of organized crime on indigenous groups in the region.
- A wave of allegations of sexual assault and abuse against William McKey, a writer for Venezuelan news site Prodavinci, rock musician Alejandro Sojo, and journalist Victor Amaya, has sparked a rise in the #MeToo movement in Venezuela, with the hashtag #YoSíTeCreo trending this week on Twitter. Support for the movement on social media has prompted Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab to launch investigations into the allegations made against McKey, as well as other prominent figures who have recently been accused of sexual misconduct. On Thursday April 29, it was confirmed that McKey committed suicide in the wake of the allegations.
- On April 26, Human Rights Watch published a report documenting “egregious abuses” including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and torture committed by the Venezuelan security forces since armed confrontations broke out in the state of Apure on March 21.
- A new report by the Center for Defenders and Justice (CDJ) documented 183 attacks on the rights of human rights defenders between January and April 2021, representing an increase of 259% from the same period in 2020.
- At least 9 people have died after a boat carrying approximately 25 Venezuelan migrants capsized en route to Trinidad and Tobago, with 12 individuals confirmed to have survived, and another 4 whose whereabouts are still unknown. After reports of the shipwreck emerged, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) called for the establishment of regular and legal pathways to allow Venezuelan migrants to travel safely to host countries.
- This week, the Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (CDH-UCAB) published a report highlighting the particular physical and mental challenges facing Venezuelan migrants and refugees who identify as LGBTQ+. A video explainer of the report’s main conclusions can be found here.
- On April 25, Chile deported a group of 55 Venezuelan migrants, 40 of whom had allegedly entered the country illegally. The action is the latest in a wave of deportations after the Piñera government passed a new immigration law to curb migration through informal channels, which has been met with outcry from human rights advocates and the UN Committee on Migrant Workers.
- On April 22, the National Assembly elected in 2015 announced that it had approved the use of $152 million in frozen funds of the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) held in accounts abroad, $100 million of which would be designated to access COVID-19 vaccines for the Venezuelan population. The use of these funds must still be approved by the U.S. Treasury, and they are in addition to the $30 million that the opposition had already mobilized to pay for vaccines through the COVAX mechanism.
- This week, Guaidó ambassador to the U.S. Carlos Vecchio proposed on Twitter that the Biden administration use Venezuelan funds held in accounts in the U.S. to purchase vaccines and address the country’s humanitarian crisis. The announcement came just before Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the Preserving Accountability for National Assets Act of 2021 (PANA Act), which seeks to do exactly that..
- On April 23, U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) issued a statement calling on the Biden administration to consider distributing its excess doses of the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to Venezuela, following reports that Maduro is restricting vaccine access to chavista allies.
- This week, Reuters reported that COVID-19 patients in Venezuela are now paying for doctors to treat them at home due to the risk of visiting overwhelmed public hospitals, and the extremely high cost of private clinics in the country.