Negotiations between the Maduro government and the Guaidó-led opposition to explore solutions to Venezuela’s political and humanitarian crisis will reportedly begin in Mexico on August 13. On August 5, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador publicly confirmed for the first time that Mexico had accepted the proposal from the Norwegian government to host talks, though he did not confirm the date and there are still open questions about the agenda.
The first meeting on August 13 is reportedly to discuss an initial agreement around the terms of the negotiations before committing to more detailed talks later this year. The negotiations will be facilitated by Norway, who oversaw the most recent attempt at talks in 2019, and Bloomberg reports that delegations from Russia and France will serve as guarantors for the two sides, and Argentina and the Netherlands may also join them. While President López Obrador has confirmed that the upcoming talks will take place in Mexico, the specifics of the negotiations will be facilitated by the Norwegian foreign ministry. The government’s negotiating team will include Miranda state Governor Hector Rodríguez and Jorge Rodríguez, President of the National Assembly elected in widely-questioned legislative elections in December 2020, while the opposition’s negotiating team will be led by Gerardo Blyde, who previously represented the opposition in the 2019 Oslo-Barbados talks.
On August 4, Hector Rodríguez confirmed in an interview that negotiations would begin in the coming weeks, and affirmed the Maduro government’s commitment to achieving a democratic solution in which all “renounce violence and hate.” After the Mexican government publicly confirmed that negotiations would take place in Mexico, Juan Guaidó expressed his support on Twitter for efforts to negotiate, stating that Venezuela’s situation is “unsustainable” and sharing a video to promote the ‘National Salvation Agreement’ he proposed in May.
On July 19, WOLA joined the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) in publishing a report highlighting the main lessons learned from previous attempts to negotiate in Venezuela, and the narratives that emerged from the most recent effort to negotiate in 2019 under the mediation of Norway, based on in-depth interviews with members of the Chavista and opposition negotiating teams. The report, titled “Negotiating a Return to Democracy in Venezuela,” offers a series of recommendations for the negotiating teams and the U.S. administration to maximize the potential for success in future processes.
- This week a group of international experts of the Organization of American States (OAS) issued a statement urging International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan to announce the launch of a formal investigation into crimes against humanity committed by the Maduro government in the context of protests since 2017. In response, Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab published a statement accusing the OAS of attempting to interfere in the ICC process to benefit the Guaidó-led opposition.
- On August 2, President of the Council of Latin American Electoral Experts (CEELA) Nicanor Moscoso met with officials including Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and CNE President Pedro Calzadilla to agree on the conditions to send a technical mission to observe regional elections scheduled for November 21.
- Several of Venezuela’s mainstream opposition parties (Voluntad Popular, Acción Democrática, Un Nuevo Tiempo, and Primero Justicia) are reportedly mobilizing to set August 22 as the tentative date for primaries to select candidates in Anzoátegui, Trujillo, Miranda, Zulia and Falcón states ahead of the November 21 regional elections.
- After the swearing in of Peru’s leftist president Pedro Castillo on July 28, new Foreign Minister Hector Bejar indicated that the Peruvian government would shift its policy towards Venezuela to oppose sanctions against the Maduro government. Bejar suggested that the new administration would align itself more with the International Contact Group rather than the Lima Group, of which Peru is a founding member.
- In an interview with Voz de America, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Julie Chung reaffirmed the Biden administration’s support for the Guaidó-led opposition coalition and for negotiations slated to begin this month in Mexico. Chung also suggested a preference for a negotiation process that is limited in duration, stating that the U.S. does not want to see another “negotiation that continues without end.”
- This week, Colombian Health Minister Fernando Ruiz stated that Colombia has a plan in place to vaccinate approximately 1 million Venezuelan migrants living in the country without regular status, but that the government is still awaiting vaccine donations that have been promised by the international community for this purpose. Foreign governments including the United States, Canada, and Spain have offered to donate excess vaccines to be distributed to vulnerable populations including Venezuelan migrants in Colombia.
- A study published by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) revealed that 82% of displaced persons in Ecuador, the majority Venezuelan, would face serious risks including violence, exploitation by armed groups, food insecurity, and difficulty finding employment if they were forced to return to their home country. 73% of the Venezuelans interviewed for the study reported not having regular status, and only 12% reported to have a valid passport.
- On August 3, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would extend the initial registration period for TPS for Venezuela from 180 days to 18 months, meaning that eligible Venezuelan nationals in the U.S. can now apply for TPS until September 9, 2022. To date, only 125,000 Venezuelans have applied for TPS in the U.S., representing about 37.5% of the eligible population.
- This week, the OAS Working Group on the Crisis of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees reported that the number of displaced Venezuelans could reach 7 million in the first few months of 2022, assuming that the crisis worsens and that border and economic restrictions imposed during the pandemic are lifted. This would lead it to surpass the Syrian refugee crisis to be the largest in the world.
- On August 3, Niurka Camacho, a 15-year-old adolescent who recently testified to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) about the poor state of the country’s public pediatric health system and the suspension of Venezuela’s organ transplant system, died after never receiving a kidney transplant. The news of Niurka’s death was met with an outpouring of support and grief on social media, and renewed demands for the Maduro government to reactivate its transplant system.
- Following a landmark agreement reached with the Maduro government in April to begin operations to provide school meals to children at risk of food insecurity, this week World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director Maria Dolores Castro revealed that the UN agency would first prioritize providing assistance in the nine states identified with the highest numbers of individuals living in poverty and food insecurity: Falcon, Zulia, Táchira, Amazonas, Delta Amacuro, Bolívar, Anzoátegui, Miranda and Monagas.
- On August 1, Nicolás Maduro announced that the 6.2 million vaccines expected to be distributed through the WHO-led COVAX mechanism would begin to arrive in Venezuela “in the coming days.” On August 4, the WHO clarified that vaccines acquired through COVAX would arrive in two shipments to Venezuela, and that the date for the first shipment, which will include 2.6 million Sinopharm and 600,000 Sinovac vaccines, has not yet been decided.
- Venezuela is reportedly facing a shortage of Sputnik V vaccines, with many unable to schedule appointments to receive their second dose. Jaime Lorenzo of the NGO Medicos Unidos has stated that the shortages have generated uncertainty and concern among the population, and criticized the Maduro government for failing to establish a national vaccination plan.
- This week, human rights NGO PROVEA spoke out against the Maduro government after the vaccination schedule at the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela (UBV) was suspended, and dozens of appointments rescheduled, due to plans to host PSUV’s primary elections at the same location on August 8.