On Friday, August 13, representatives of the Maduro government and the Guaidó-led opposition met in Mexico City to sign a memorandum of understanding, an initial agreement laying out the terms and objectives of a new negotiation process. This dialogue process, mediated by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, is the fifth of its kind following previous attempts to resolve Venezuela’s crisis through negotiations in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019.

The negotiating teams arrived in Mexico last week to sign the initial memorandum of understanding to commit to a comprehensive dialogue process over the coming months. The opposition negotiating team is led by Gerardo Blyde, who previously represented the opposition in the 2019 Oslo-Barbados talks, and includes the Guaidó Ambassador to the U.S. Carlos Vecchio, Tomás Guanipa of Primero Justicia (formerly Guaidó’s Ambassador to Colombia), Stalin González, who represents the Henrique Capriles-aligned sector of the opposition, Luis Emilio Rondón of Un Nuevo Tiempo, Luis Aquiles Moreno of Acción Democrática, Mariela Magallanes as a representative of minority opposition parties, and Roberto Enríquez of center-right minority party Copei. The Maduro government’s negotiating team is led by Jorge Rodríguez, president of the National Assembly elected in December 2020, and includes Miranda state governor Hector Rodríguez, and Nicolás Maduro’s own son, Nicolás Maduro Guerra. Delegations from Russia and the Netherlands are reportedly joining the talks on behalf of the Maduro government and opposition, with several other countries including the U.S., Canada, Britain, Turkey, and Bolivia participating in a more passive role.

The memorandum signed on Friday lays out a list of shared priorities for upcoming talks, with important language regarding the need for inclusive democracy and political coexistence, the importance of promoting a culture of respect for human rights, and a commitment to include relevant political and social actors outside of the main political parties represented. The two sides agreed on a series of concrete objectives encompassing an electoral schedule, the lifting of sanctions, reparations to victims of violence, and the restoration of political rights. The agreement also expresses a willingness to achieve partial accords on urgent issues to build up to a comprehensive and long-term solution to the country’s political, economic, and humanitarian crisis. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the document is that it does not refer to the opposition as the “interim government,” and instead as the Unitary Platform–this has been interpreted by many as implicit recognition by the Guaido coalition that Maduro retains de facto power.

Analysts have expressed a cautious optimism around the new negotiations; on August 12, WOLA’s Geoff Ramsey and David Smilde, along with Keith Mines and Steve Hege of the U.S. Institute of Peace, published an op-ed in The Hill urging the negotiating teams to maintain realistic expectations, and emphasizing the need to establish a clear role for the U.S. and Venezuelan civil society for the negotiations to be successful. Several Venezuelan academics and analysts have expressed a similar message, including Maryhen Jiménez in an op-ed in Americas Quarterly. Luz Mely Reyes of Efecto Cocuyo also published an op-ed in The Washington Post emphasizing the need for human rights to be at the top of the negotiating teams’ agenda.

The international reaction to the renewed negotiation effort has been overwhelmingly positive. On August 14, the U.S., EU, and Canada published a joint statement of support for the process, and reiterating a willingness to review sanctions policies in exchange for concessions such as the release of political prisoners, and minimum electoral conditions ahead of local and regional elections scheduled for November 21. In a press conference on August 17, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard reaffirmed the Mexican government’s commitment to act as a neutral party to host the process, and expressed hope that the negotiation process may lead to a series of accords that allow for the lifting of sanctions on the country. On August 15, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry published a statement confirming that the negotiating teams will return to Mexico for the next round of talks on September 3.


Human Rights