Venezuela Weekly: Bolivia Crisis Charges the Atmosphere as Guaidó and Maduro Mobilize Followers

Bolivia’s political crisis charged the atmosphere in Venezuela just days before National Assembly President Juan Guaidó’s call for street mobilization on Saturday, November 16.

Opposition leaders embraced Morales resignation, gleefully tweeting their interpretations. They denied their had been a coup, and emphasizing that the difference with Venezuela is that the armed forces have been co-opted by Maduro with Cuban help. Opposition radicals such as María Corina Machado said the lesson was that “you cannot coexist with tyranny” and that it was imperative to end all efforts at negotiating with the government.

The Maduro government, in turn, emphasized that there had been a coup and denied there had been an electoral fraud. They called for street mobilization in Caracas in solidarity with Evo Morales. Nicolás Maduro accused the U.S. government of being the financial sponsor and organizer of the “coup” against Morales, while Diosdado Cabello said that the Venezuelan government is prepared to defeat any destabilization plan.

Venezuela commentators suggested another interpretation: that the sequence of events showed the wisdom of going to elections even when they are unfair, given their potential to unleash a sequence of events that can lead to a transition (see John Magdaleno here and Phil Gunson here). Luz Mely Reyes interviewed a Bolivian activist who suggested they had gone to elections precisely to avoid “repeating the Venezuelan experience.”

Guaidó has called for Saturday’s march to be the beginning of a protest cycle with “no return.” It will start from concentrations at four points in Eastern Caracas. Already on Thursday students mobilized and confronted security forces.

Nicolás Maduro, in turn, has ordered 3.2 million militia to the streets, and has suggested Colombia was sending terrorist groups to Venezuela to cause violence. In an effort to prevent demobilization, Juan Guaidó’s Security and Intelligence Commissioner Ivan Simonovis sent a video message to police forces to not repress opposition protests.

Negotiations

  • After its meeting in Brasilia, the Lima Group released a 23 point statement including a call for Cuba to be “part of the solution to the crisis,” a rejection of the dialogue process between the Maduro government and minority opposition parties, as well as a rejection of any attempt to move up legislative elections.
  • The National Assembly (AN) finalized the formation of the preliminary electoral commission with the appointment of the two last deputies of the eleven that the commission requires to function (see last week’s Venezuela Weekly for background).
  • Chavismo has asked the National Assembly to “accelerate” the procedures for the appointment of the new board of the National Electoral Council (CNE). Chavismo thinks it should be appointed by the end of the year for National Assembly elections in 2020.

Migration

  • The countries participating in the Quito Process are currently meeting in Bogotá to seek a more articulated, regional approach to Venezuela’s forced-migration crisis. See this backgrounder by WOLA’s Kristen Martínez-Gugerli.
  • The civil society organizations that form part of the Working Group on Venezuelan Human Mobility (GTMHV) have been seeking civil society participation in the Quito Process. Not having received a response, they released a statement and video detailing their views and demands.
  • The U.N. Refugeed Agency says Latin American and Caribbean nations will need $1.35 billion to adequately address the needs of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. They estimate that 6.5 million Venezuelans will have left their country by the end of 2020.
  • A recent study by the Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP) claims that the massive migration of Venezuelans to Colombia has not had a significant impact on the criminal indices of Colombia.
  • OpenDemocracy.net published a piece calling attention the under-analyzed phenomenon of internal migration.

Humanitarian Emergency

  • After his visit to Venezuela, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, released a statement pointing out that the $223 million UN Humanitarian Response Plan has not received the support it needs, and suggesting that “all parties must respect our principled humanitarian approach and not manipulate the needs-based assistance. Human suffering is not a political weapon.”
  • In absolute terms, Venezuela is the country where malnutrition has increased the most in recent years, from 2.9 million people between 2013-2015 to 6.8 million in the 2016-2018 period.
  • A recent survey of the situation of the Venezuelan hospitals suggests they cannot even carry out basic services such as X-rays and lab tests.

Violence

  • According to a research published by Amnesty International, Venezuela is the third country after Brazil and Mexico with the largest number of light weapons in the hands of civilians and one of the countries where the highest percentage of homicides are the product of gunfire.
  • Reuters published an investigative report regarding the National Bolivarian Police’s Special Actions Force (FAES). Talking with family members and neighbors they found evidence that FAES officers routinely killed unarmed suspects and then create a crime scene to mimic a firefight, for example by shooting holes in the walls of the murdered suspect’s home.

 Economy

  • Maduro’s government argues that they expect to pay their total debt to Rosneft by the first quarter of 2020, leaving open the possibility they could generate cash revenue for PDVSA and receive upstream investment from Moscow. Argus reports.
  • The Associated Press has published evidence that some oil tankers are “going dark” to avoid U.S. sanctions. They turn off their transponders as they enter Venezuelan waters to load oil headed to China, India or Russia.