Latin America Advisor Q&A on Venezuelan Supreme Court Decisions

This week the Inter-American Dialogue’s Latin America Advisor published a Q&A on the recent Supreme Court ruling in Venezuela, asking Francisco Márquez, Peter DeShazio, Steve Ellner, Marc Becker and myself for comments. My comments are below. You can read the whole thing here.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court earlier this month seated a new electoral commission after ruling that the opposition-controlled National Assembly did not appoint rectors to the country’s electoral authority in time. How will the Supreme Court’s actions affect the scheduling of the election and its outcome? Is Juan Guaidó, who has international recognition as Venezuela’s legitimate president, likely to lose his position this year as National Assembly president? How would such a loss for Guaidó affect his standing within Venezuela’s opposition and on the world stage?

“The Maduro-controlled Supreme Court named a new electoral commission consistent with the way it imagines Venezuela: with a pro-government majority and two representatives from the ‘loyal opposition.’ There were serious negotiations between the Maduro government and the Guaidó-led opposition in which the latter was actually willing to cut a deal. However, the government backed away and created the CNE it wants and needs. There is no chance there will actually be fair elections. Of course, there are many cases in which oppositions to authoritarian governments have participated in unfair elections and succeeded in generating processes of change. But this seems unlikely in the current context. The Venezuelan people have recent memories of actual democratic elections, and trying to convince them to participate in an unfair election is a tough sell. Add in the fact that many think international intervention will happen if things get bad enough, and going to an unfair election seems like treason. The idea of allowing the current National Assembly’s mandate to run out and claiming ‘administrative continuity’ in 2021 for Juan Guaidó’s interim government is leading to a lot of nodding heads in the opposition’s internal discussions. But this move would likely continue the degradation of the interim government’s standing both nationally and internationally. There are no good options for the Venezuelan opposition at this point. Priority should be given to proposals that allow the opposition to set their agenda rather than respond to Maduro’s, respond to people’s needs rather than hoping their suffering will lead to an uprising and lower the regime’s exit costs rather than raise them.”