Smilde & Lowenthal in The Hill: “Venezuela negotiations deserve strong international support”

Yesterday, National Assembly President Juan Guaidó announced that the Venezuelan opposition will meet with Maduro government representatives in Barbados, thereby resuming the negotiation process being guided by Norwegian diplomats. Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also made announcements. This resumption had previously been agreed upon for last week. But the death-by-torture of Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo led the opposition to cancel.

Last week, Abe Lowenthal and I published a piece in The Hill arguing that international stakeholders should vigorously support the negotiation process. We especially encouraged the U.S. Senate sponsors of the “Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance, and Development Act of 2019” to do so, given that on of the stated goals of the Verdad Act is “to support diplomatic engagement in order to advance a negotiated and peaceful solution to Venezuela’s political, economic and humanitarian crisis” (Sec.103.b).

We suggest that it is precisely because there are hard-line, authoritarian actors in Maduro’s coalition that simply pressuring for a collapse will likely lead to an undemocratic transition. Much preferable would be a negotiated transition that includes all relevant stake-holders and leads to new elections. We wrote this in response to a Twitter thread by Senator Marco Rubio critiquing our previous op ed in the New York Times.

We also suggest that seeing Cuba as an impediment to a democratic transition misreads the situation. To the contrary, we suggest that “properly engaged, Havana could play a constructive role, as it did in the Central American and Colombian peace processes, encouraging ideological allies to accept compromises.”