Venezuela’s new National Electoral Council (CNE) has announced the rehabilitation of the National Unity Roundtable (MUD) party ticket, allowing the opposition coalition to present a unified list of candidates for the first time since the Maduro government banned it from participating in 2018. While some have praised this as an important concession, it presents challenges for the coalition amidst elevated internal tensions.
On June 29, the CNE announced that 20 new organizations (eight national and 12 regional) would be able to present candidates, promote party symbols and campaign in upcoming regional and municipal elections on November 21. Among them is the MUD, the platform that the Venezuelan opposition rallied behind to win a two-thirds majority in the December 2015 legislative election. In January 2018 the Maduro government-aligned Supreme Court ruled that the MUD coalition could not participate in presidential elections that year, announcing that only individual member parties could take part in a pre-electoral certification process.
While the coalition had already begun to show cracks in late 2017, the 2018 ruling marked a turning point for the MUD. By January 2019, it had been made essentially irrelevant with the rise of Juan Guaidó, whose interim government brought together the MUD’s four largest member parties (Primero Justicia, Voluntad Popular, Accion Democratica, and Un Nuevo Tiempo). Efecto Cocuyo reports that the MUD ticket is now in the hands of its former legal representative José Luis Cartaya, who is close to the main four parties in the coalition.
However, restoring the MUD unity ticket will not be easy. As Eugenio Martinez writes in La Gran Aldea, there are deep divides currently among the opposition over whether to participate in the November regional elections or not. And even despite other recent concessions like openness to an EU observation mission and Maduro promising to end a practice of sidelining opposition governors with parallel authorities, Martinez notes that a “Communal Cities Bill” being considered in the PSUV-dominated National Assembly could undercut any opposition electoral victories at the regional and municipal level.
- On July 2, Venezuelan security forces arrested Javier Tarazona, director of the human rights NGO Fundaredes, on Friday in Falcon state. He and three other activists visited the Public Prosecutor’s office in Falcon to report that that they were being harassed by the SEBIN intelligence police. While one of them, Jhonny Romero, was subsequently free, at time of writing the others remain in detention and Venezuelan human rights groups are campaigning for their immediate release.
- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued an updated report on the human rights situation in Venezuela. As PROVEA notes, her office reported that it continued to receive credible allegations of enforced disappearances, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the closing of civic spaces, and noted that “structural challenges previously identified by OHCHR continued to undermine the independence of the judiciary.”
- A group of 123 Venezuelan and international human rights groups issued a joint statement on June 28 rejecting the “Communal Cities Bill,” arguing that its passage would “constitute a serious setback in the possibility of resolving the current conflict through peaceful and democratic mechanisms.”
- El Nacional reports that group of 80 prisoners detained in Miranda completed a week on hunger strike with their mouths sewn shut to bring attention to overcrowding and poor conditions in the facility, according to the NGO Una Ventana a la Libertad (UVL). Separately, the Venezuelan Observatory of Prisons (OVP) issued a report denouncing mistreatment of incarcerated women in the female ward of the Uribana prison in Barquisimeto, denouncing irregularities in access to food and water as well as regular abuse by guards.
- On June 22, a high-profile list of over 100 figures affiliated with “dissident Chavismo” issued a joint statement rejecting the government of Nicolas Maduro and expressing support for organizing a recall referendum that could be constitutionally triggered in 2022. The letter also mentions documented human rights abuses and corruption under Maduro. “It is not possible that in a ‘participatory and leading democracy’ such practices of harassment and terror are used as State policy to preserve power. This reveals failure as a political option for change, and the creation of a conservative and reactionary force,” the document states.
- Roberto Picón, one of the new opposition-affiliated CNE rectors, announced this week that the electoral body is working to to end restrictions on political participation for certain members of the opposition who have been banned from political office. However, on June 30 Comptroller Elvis Amoroso announced that a ban on Guaido and 27 other opposition figures holding public office was still in effect.
- On July 2 the National Electoral Commission of the ruling PSUV announced its list of internal candidates for primary elections on August 8, ahead of the November regional elections.
- On June 17, the Juan Guaidó coalition announced that they would be sending a delegation to Washington headed by Gerardo Blyde, a well-regarded politician who participated in the 2019 Barbados negotiations, and comprised of members of the four main opposition parties. In Washington last week the delegation met with Deputy Secretary of State Wedy Sherman, though VOA reported that the Biden administration would not confirm whether the delegation would meet with members of the National Security Council. In the House of Representatives they met with members of the bipartisan Venezuela Democracy Caucus (including U.S. Representatives for Florida Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Mario Diaz Balart, and Carlos Gimenez); and in the Senate had a joint meeting with Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez.
- After a critics like Elliott Abrams questioned the fact that President Biden had not called Colombian President Ivan Duque so far in his presidency, the two leaders spoke on June 28. According to the White House, the two “underscored the importance of expanding international consensus in favor of comprehensive negotiations that lead to free and fair elections.” In a subsequent interview, NSC Western Hemisphere Director Juan Gonzalez told Caracol TV that Colombia should have “a seat at the table” in any Venezuela negotiations, alongside others in the international community.
- On June 28, Pope Francis received U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in the Vatican, the first high-level meeting between the Holy See and the Biden administration. According to the U.S. readout of the conversation, the two discussed “the humanitarian crises in Lebanon, Syria, the Tigray region of Ethiopia, and Venezuela.”
- The governments of the United States, Canada and the European Union issued a joint statement on June 25 in which they urged a “time-bound and comprehensive negotiation process” that could “restore the country’s institutions and allow for all Venezuelans to express themselves politically through credible, inclusive and transparent local, parliamentary, and presidential elections.” In exchange the three said they were willing to review sanctions on the basis of advancements in such a process.
- On July 6, an EU technical mission will arrive in Caracas to evaluate electoral conditions ahead of regional elections, and to assess the viability of sending a full-fledged observation mission.
- A new in-depth report in the Associated Press finds that Venezuelans are crossing the Mexico-U.S. border in record numbers, with nearly 17,306 Venezuelans crossing into the U.S. irregularly since January. The AP found that most of these had already left Venezuela for other Latin American countries, but the pandemic and stagnant economic conditions drove them to relocate to the United States.
- Efecto Cocuyo has also published on the ground reporting from the Southwest border on the increased flow of Venezuelans into the country, including a photo gallery of the items that Venezuelan migrants and refugees left behind on the banks of the Rio Grande.