On July 20, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) published a joint report highlighting the main lessons learned and subsequent narratives from the most recent effort to negotiate in 2019 under the mediation of the Norwegian government. The report, entitled “Negotiating a Return to Democracy in Venezuela,” draws from in-depth interviews with members of both the opposition and Chavista negotiating teams from the 2019 talks, and offers a series of recommendations to maximize the potential for success in future processes.
Venezuela’s downward spiral has been marked by multiple efforts at negotiation in recent years with the support of international actors including Norway and the Vatican, all of which have been unsuccessful to date. Now, as both the Maduro government and the opposition are once again signaling an interest in entering into new negotiations, “Negotiating a Return to Democracy” presents an overview of the successes and failures of previous negotiation processes, assesses the narratives of members of both negotiating teams following the breakdown of the 2019 Oslo-Barbados process, and presents recommendations to both negotiating teams and the international community to best support negotiations in the future. Here you can access the press release with the report’s main findings, and a summary of the main findings and recommendations in Spanish.
On the date of the report launch, WOLA and USIP cosponsored a public event, “The Challenges of Negotiating a Return to Democracy,” featuring presentations from report authors Geoff Ramsey and Keith Mines, as well as Venezuelan academic Colette Capriles and Roberto Patiño, opposition politician and founder of the Alimenta la Solidaridad humanitarian NGO. A recording of the event in English can be found on WOLA’s YouTube page.
- Amid a recent crackdown on social activists and opposition representatives, Chile’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on July 16 that Voluntad Popular party representative Emilio Graterón had taken refuge in the Chilean embassy in Caracas. The news came a few days after National Assembly president Jorge Rodríguez publicly accused Graterón and other members of Voluntad Popular of involvement in ongoing confrontations in the Caracas neighborhood of Cota 905 that have left at least 26 dead.
- A new report from the Center for Defenders and Justice (CDJ) documents that there were at least 374 instances of attacks and security threats to human rights defenders in the first six months of 2021, including but not limited to arbitrary detentions, intimidation and harassment, digital attacks, and raids on offices. The number indicates an increase of 243% from the same period in 2020.
- On July 21, independent UN human rights experts expressed concern that U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and PDVSA may exacerbate the health risk to patients of cancer and other critically ill patients in the country. A statement from the experts called on the U.S. to mitigate the impacts of overcompliance and withdraw sanctions that have made it difficult for patients to seek treatment in Venezuela.
- Over a week after opposition representative Freddy Guevara was arrested by Venezuela’s National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), his legal team exposed on Twitter that he has not been allowed contact with his family members or his attorneys. Guevara was arbitrarily detained on July 12 under charges of terrorism, treason, and ties with extremist groups.
- The Center for Justice and Peace (CEPAZ) published a report documenting 434 cases of persecution and/or criminalization against perceived adversaries of the Maduro government in the first half of 2021. The number includes 114 attacks against journalistic workers, 268 acts of persecution against political dissidents, 31 attacks against civil society organizations, and 21 attacks on civilians.
- Ahead of regional elections slated for November, and facing a rise in repression and intimidation of members of Venezuela’s opposition, divisions between opposition parties are beginning to show around the intention to participate in the November elections. On July 19, center-left opposition party Causa R said in a statement that it would not participate in the electoral process due to a lack of credible conditions and a rise in persecution by the Maduro government. On the other hand, President of the Avanzada Progresista party Henri Falcón indicated on July 22 that his party intends to present candidates, and that he will continue to work with the CNE to encourage free and fair conditions. This week, dissident Chavista party Unidad Política Popular also announced its exit from the Alianza Democrática coalition due to differences over which candidates to present in the November elections.
- On Friday, July 16, the National Electoral Council (CNE) named in May announced the end of the 45 day-long period of updating voter registration information, stating in a press conference that over 431,000 new voters were registered ahead of the regional and municipal elections scheduled for November 21.
- On July 17, representatives of opposition parties that make up the ‘Plataforma Unitaria’ joined together to address the public regarding the Maduro government’s heightened persecution of politicians, social activists and human rights defenders. The Plataforma Unitaria also issued a statement calling for an end to the repression and the immediate release of all political prisoners.
- As the Maduro government and the Guaidó coalition continue to battle over the rights to more than $1 billion in reserves of Venezuelan gold currently held in the Bank of England, the British government issued a statement on Monday reaffirming its support for Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. The statement comes as U.K.’s Supreme Court began hearing from representatives of Guaidó and Maduro’s legal teams regarding the release of the funds on Monday.
- On July 22, the British government added two individuals associated with the Maduro government, Alex Saab and Alvarado Pulido Vargas, to its sanctions list for the alleged corrupt use of funds designated for public welfare programs. Saab and Vargas have both already been sanctioned by the United States, and Alex Saab is currently imprisoned in South Africa and faces extradition to the U.S. View further details regarding Venezuelan individuals under international sanctions in WOLA’s Targeted Sanctions Database.
- This week, the Vatican’s Foreign Minister Pietro Parolin issued a letter calling on the Maduro government and the Guaidó-led opposition to take seriously efforts to negotiate, and to incorporate civil society into future talks to resolve Venezuela’s crisis. Nicolás Maduro responded to the letter on state television the following day, referring to the message as a “compendium of hatred” from the Vatican official.
- On July 17, the Maduro government initiated a survey to gauge citizens’ opinions about flexibilizing the 7+7 quarantine system that the government has periodically imposed since June 2020 to limit the spread of COVID-19. Facing reports from government officials that so far 62.6% of respondents support eliminating the 7+7 system, medical experts have expressed concern that doing so could result in a dangerous rise in cases.
- Venezuela’s top infectious disease expert Julio Castro stated on Monday that recent weeks have seen the highest rate of positive COVID-19 cases since the onset of the pandemic, with new cases averaging between 8,200 and 9,000 per week. Facing this rise in cases, Castro warned that eliminating the 7+7 quarantine system as the government is considering may create a false sense of security among the population.
- After GAVI announced that the Maduro government had completed its payment to access vaccines through the COVAX system, WHO spokesperson Ciro Ugarte said on July 21 that conversations with the Venezuelan government would be starting “very soon” to determine the details and timeline of COVAX distribution in the country.
- On July 16, Colombian Presidential Advisor Alejandra Botero announced that over 1 million Venezuelans have completed the preregistration phase to apply for the Temporary Protected Status program intended to provide regular status to approximately 1.8 million Venezuelans in the country. On July 22, the director of Colombia’s migration agency also revealed that Venezuelans who register to receive the temporary status will be able to access COVID-19 vaccines.
- On July 17, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry informed that over 650 Venezuelan nationals had been repatriated from Trinidad and Tobago due to a lack of resources and employment opportunities abroad. The individuals returned to Venezuela through the Maduro government’s ‘Plan Vuelta a la Patria’ add to a group of 124 individuals who were voluntarily repatriated from Trinidad and Tobago the previous weekend.