Venezuela Weekly: International Contact Group Momentum Confronted by Obdurate Political Actors

The unexpectedly robust statement from the International Contact Group last week—stating they would be sending a political (i.e. not just technical) mission to discuss concrete proposals for elections and accepting the Lima Group’s invitation to discuss working together—generated some initial enthusiasm. For example, China recognized the ICG’s meeting and statement saying “China will step up communication and work together in a constructive manner with the international community including the EU for the political settlement. This will serve the interests of the Venezuelan people and all parties.”

However, the arrest of one of the vice presidents of the National Assembly, Edgar Zambrano quickly put a pall over the achievement. Indeed, as I suggested here, it is quite possible that the arrest was an effort on the part of government hardliners to undermine any momentum leading to negotiation. The International Contact Group immediately issued a press release saying Zambrano’s arrest will “seriously aggravate the current crisis.” And on May 13, President of the National Assembly proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó issued a public letter to the European Union suggesting that Venezuela should be given a role in the ICG like it has in the Lima Group—which has included Venezuela as a member since January of this year.

The move highlights the contrasting logics of the Lima Group and the ICG. The Lima Group is a coalition of countries in the hemisphere pressuring for a return for democracy in Venezuela, but which does not include any diplomatic efforts to try broker a solution. In this sense it is in sync with the Trump Administration and Guaidó coalition. The ICG, in contrast, is a diplomatic initiative designed to accompany international pressure and channel it towards a specific solution: new elections.

  • Faced with an ever more repressive context, Guaidó has asked for direct contact o the US military. This comes at the same time that there seems to be a pause in the administration’s militaristic rhetoric and reports of Trump’s wariness towards National Security Advisor John Bolton’s bellicose tendencies.
  • The Vatican Nuncio in Venezuela Aldo Giordani once again affirmed that they would only participate in a dialogue if there is concrete agenda agreed upon in advance. In February Pope Francis rebuffed Nicolás Maduro’s requests that the Vatican again facilitate dialogue, suggesting “there was no follow-up with concrete gestures” after previous rounds.

Media

  • Non-governmental organization Espacio Público has a summary of the various violations of press freedoms in the events around April 30, including blockage of internet access. The Press Workers Union (SNTP) said 12 journalists were victims of attacks. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists has a review of the adverse context for journalists trying to cover protests and violence in Venezuela.
  • Netblocks.org says the Maduro government continues to block internet access at key moments, such as Juan Guaidó’s speech at the May 11 rally in Caracas. Foreign Policy has a story on the Maduro government’s “nimble internet censorship.”
  • This week digital media outlet Efecto Cocuyo will be hold a three day event called Escuela Cocuyo in which two workshops will be held for journalists on how to retool journalism for digital platforms and how to cover the humanitarian crisis.

Migration

  • Migración Colombia says the country now has 1,260,594 Venezuelans registered in the country. On May 4, Colombian President Iván Duque said that Venezuelan migrants were victims of a dictatorship, not promoters of its ideology. This followed a statement from Colombia’s ambassador to the OAS two days earlier that Venezuelan migration was part of a strategy to “radiate 21st Century socialism throughout the region.
  • Information from the International Organization for Migration in Peru says there are now 730,000 Venezuelans in Peru. The majority are of working age 18-39 yrs old. Most are coming because they do not have access to work, food and health care in Venezuela. A recent poll has shown that a majority Peruvians think Venezuelan migration is negative. Peru is checking the criminal records of Venezuelan migrants and recently deported 40.
  • Human Rights Watch presented an amicus brief to the Constitutional Court of Ecuador saying that Ecuador needs to uphold the rights of Venezuelans that have fled there. U.S. philanthropist William Rhodes met with Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno to analyze the situation of Venezuelan migration in that country and the development of a plan to address it. Ecuador’s Interinstitutional Committee in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented a plan against human trafficking.
  • The International Labor Organization is providing $2 million for initiatives that promote the social and labor market integration of Venezuelans.
  • Two Florida legislators held a press conference in Miami calling on the Trump Administration to grant temporary protected status to Venezuelans residing in the U.S. The Trump Administration has studiously avoided this measure. This avoidance is not only a part of the Administration’s increasing restrictions on immigration, but is consistent with its narrative that the Maduro government’s days are numbered.

Humanitarian Emergency

  • Venezuela ranks fifth worldwide in measles cases and has the highest per capita rate in Latin America, with 196 cases per million inhabitants.

The goal of Venezuela Weekly is to provide a news digest that is brief yet highlights concrete information. Did I miss something important or get something wrong? Let me know at [email protected]