Venezuela Weekly: Guaidó Balances a Difficult Coalition

At the same time that reports emerge that the Barbados rounds of negotiations are serious and working towards a potential electoral solution, the Venezuela’s opposition coalition continues to position itself to “request” or “activate” military intervention.

After months of debate, the National Assembly approved the reinstatement of Venezuela to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), a regional defense treaty (Venezuela withdrew from the treaty on May 14, 2013). This development appeases the radical wing of the opposition that thinks military intervention is the only possible way of addressing the current impasse. For example, radical opposition leader Maria Corina Machado said “Going back to TIAR is a correct step as part of a comprehensive strategy.” National Assembly president Juan Guaidó says the reincorporation in the treaty is not a silver bullet: “the TIAR is not magic, it is not a button that we press and then tomorrow everything is resolved.”

Given the current international context with tensions in the Gulf of Hormuz dominating the attention of the U.S., the idea seems less magical than ever. An unnamed U.S. official quoted by the Miami Herald said “I don’t know where in the Venezuelan political sphere it’s become a thing that the Venezuelans would ask for a military intervention and they’re going to get it,” the official said. “That’s not the way it works.” Of course the Trump administration itself has fed this line of thinking by suggesting they view Latin America in terms of “Monroe Doctrine.”

Guaidó’s calculation seems to be that this balancing act will mollify the opposition’s radical wing while negotiations take place, and if and when they reach a deal with the government it will be compelling enough to get these radicals to fall in line.

  • Mutual accusations flew as the US denounced Venezuela saying Venezuelan fighter jets “aggressively shadowed” it and endangered “the safety of the crew and jeopardiz[ed] the EP-3 [the type of the aircraft] mission.” Venezuela for its part said the U.S. spy-plane had violated its airspace.

Blackout (again)

  • From Monday afternoon to Tuesday morning 94% of the country suffered electrical blackouts. After several hours of silence the Maduro government once again blamed an electromagnetic attack without providing evidence. President of the National Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello, requested an investigation against engineer Winston Cabas, the president of the Venezuelan Association of Electrical Engineers, who Cabello accused of having previous knowledge of the attack due to his public declarations about the state of the country’s electric power system. Hours later the Venezuelan police detained Cabas’ son for eight hours before releasing him.

Lima Group

  • Twelve governments of the Lima Group released a fifteen-point statement after their meeting in the city of Buenos Aires. They reconfirmed their support for Juan Guaidó six months after his assuming the interim presidency; expressed support for the Norwegian-led talks, while not mentioning them by name, and threatened with sanctions if there was no progress.
  • The Lima Group also expressed its intention to continue the cooperation with other international actors, such as the International Contact Group and CARICOM to find a solution to the Venezuelan crisis. To wit, they announced an International Conference for Democracy in Venezuela on August 6 in Lima.

Economy

  • Venezuela’s currency is sharply devaluating. The Bolivar has lost around 40% of its value in the last ten days in the parallel market. Analysts claim that around 40% of the economy is dollarized, meaning those that suffer most from the de facto devaluation are those that receive salaries, pensions or still operate in the local currency. The government had achieved relative stability of its currency in recent months through draconian legal reserve requirements that meant banks could lend almost nothing, effectively grinding the economy to a halt. However, an uptick in government spending while having little to no liquid reserves, has made pressure on the Bolivar unstoppable.

Violence

Migration

  • Undocumented Venezuelans in the United States will not qualify for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, after a bipartisan effort did not gain sufficient support among House Republicans.