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On August 11, Venezuela’s Episcopal Conference released a statement surprinsg many. While it condemned the irregularities committed by the government, it strongly suggested the opposition needs to come up with an alternative strategy to mobilize Venezuelans.

[An electoral boycott] is not enough, they should assume the responsibility to find a solution and generate proposals who for years have believed in them. Just abstaining will increase the country’s socio-political cleavage, as well as desperation regarding the future. This decision to abstain denies Venezuelan citizens of a valid instrument to defend their rights in the National Assembly. Not participating in the parliamentary elections and the call to abstention will bring about the people’s demobilization, abandonment of political action and resignation of the effort to demonstrate their force.

The statement caught the opposition by surprise, however, some commentators pointed out that it simply reveals that the Church is not a monolith. Radical opposition voices said the Church’s stance is regrettable and the bishops are not interpreting the country’s political situation correctly.

  • The post-electoral protests in Belarus has again ignited discussion regarding the way participating in unfair elections can be used to mobilize people against an authoritarian regime. Francisco Rodriguez and Pilar Navarro wrote a piece for Chatham House regarding what the Venezuelan opposition could learn from the case of Suriname.

International Pressure and Engagement

A statement from European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell revealed that he had been carrying out high-level negotiations regarding the Venezuelan elections. He suggested that he had “to conclude that conditions are not met, at this stage, for a transparent, inclusive, free and fair electoral process.” He said he suggested to the government that they extend the electoral deadlines, which they eventually did, by a week.

He also pointed out that he had received an invitation from the Venezuelan government for the EU “to deploy an ‘electoral accompaniment mission,’ a concept alien to Union practice.” Over the past decade the National Electoral Council has only permitted domestic electoral observation groups. International groups can only engage in “accompaniment” which means they have no independence of movement or access, and generally little expertise on elections. Borrell said “to deploy an Election Observation Mission, the EU requires guaranteed minimum conditions of credibility, transparency and inclusiveness, and the ability to observe the electoral process without interference including unobstructed access.”

  • Twenty-eight countries released a statement urging all Venezuelan political parties, institutions, and civil society to commit to the goal of a transitional government that will lead the country to presidential elections as soon as possible. The statement claims, “National Assembly elections alone do not present a political solution and instead may further polarize an already divided society.”
  • The State Department released the statement without specifying the signatories. However, Juan Guaidó’s Interim Government did publish the list which amounted to mainly countries in the U.S. orbit of influence including relevant players like Canada, Brazil, Peru and the U.K. Absent were most of the main players of the Lima Group and International Contact Group such as Uruguay, Argentina (response here), Spain (response here), France, Italy, Germany and the Scandinavian countries.
  • Guaidó expressed his gratitude to the countries that signed the statement and said that opposition’s objective is to win back the streets and consolidate a government of national emergency. The Venezuelan government called the statement “extravagant and absurd interventionist” that the US drafted it to sabotage Venezuela’s electoral process.

Maduro coalition

  • Minority pro-government parties, including the historic Communist Party, announced their intention to form a broad nationwide alternative coalition and present independent candidates from the Socialist Party (PSUV) for the December elections. The government criticized this decision and on Wednesday intervened the Communist Party headquarters. Some opinion makers have criticized the opposition’s failure to speak out.
  • The Supreme Court (TSJ) appointed an ad hoc board to the Chavista political party Tupamaros after internal fractions disputed the party’s leadership.
  • Maduro announced that the National Constituent Assembly would last until December, but he did not give any details if the Assembly drafts a new constitution.

Humanitarian Aid

  • The Red Cross sent 13 tons of humanitarian aid to Venezuela in the fight that gives the country against the pandemic.
  • USAID, together with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), will give 1.8 million dollars to various projects that will benefit Venezuelan migrants and four host countries (Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago).
  • Maduro government announced that a plane with 230 Cuban doctors arrived in Venezuela to support patients with COVID-19.
  • The Simon Bolivar Foundation, a private non-profit organization of the opposition-controlled CITGO Petroleum Corporation, announced that it would donate one million dollars to three internationally recognized non-profit organizations to help with Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.

Covid-19

  • A leading figure of Chavismo and governor of the Capital District, Darío Vivas, died of COVID-19. He is the first important political actor to die after several high-rank Chavista politicians have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks.
  • So far, the country has a total of 35,697 COVID-19 cases and 297 deaths, but in the last weeks both the cases and deaths are increasing rapidly.

 Violence

  • The Utopix monitor registered 157 femicides between January and July 2020. During the same period in 2019, the figure was 99. Experts say that the increase in the femicides is linked to the lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Civil Society

  • Eighty-five national and international human rights organizations asked the states at the UN Human Rights Council to renew and strengthen the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela in the upcoming Council session.
  • Independent media and organizations of the civil society are activating mechanisms to monitor, report, investigate, and follow up the December’s legislative election.
  • The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict (OVCS) registered 649 protests in the country during July.  The vast majority of the demonstrations relates to socio-economic demands or health and utilities failures.

Sanctions

  • The U.S. is apparently considering a tightening of sanctions. Bloomberg suggests the U.S. Treasury Department could target swaps of oil for food or fuel. Reuters’ sources say the U.S. will not renew some existing licenses granted for companies still working with Venezuela’s state oil company, when they expire in October.
  • Many Venezuelans that rely on cable television for their entertainment received with the relief the announcement that DirecTV will resume its operations. Chilean investment firm Scale Capital announced that it reached a deal with DirecTV Latin America to take over the subscription service in Venezuela.