Venezuela Weekly: As International Pressure Mounts, Maduro Consolidates

Reshuffle could mean push for a new constitution

One effect of naming former president of the National Constituent Assembly Delcy Rodriguez as his new vice president is that President Nicolás Maduro opened a space for the reemergence of Diosdado Cabello. The ANC promptly named Cabello as its president. This sequence of events is something of a surprise given that rivalry between Maduro and Cabello has been evident since before late President Hugo Chávez Frías named Maduro his successor in December 2012. When Rodriguez was named president of the ANC in early August, it was seen as a significant win for Maduro and as a marginalization of Cabello.

There seem to be a couple of factors at play. First, Maduro’s attempt to displace the Socialist Party (PSUV) with his own new party flopped, as the PSUV was the primary conduit for votes for Maduro in the May 20 elections. Second, Maduro has recently been reelected to a six year term, perhaps boosting his comfort levels vis-à-vis Cabello. And finally, Diosdado is often the person put in charge of the most difficult and contentious tasks. He has likely been charged with using the ANC to rewrite the Constitution in such a way that it protects Chavismo’s permanence in power. In its first ten months the ANC scarcely mentioned the task it was created for.

It should be said that while on paper the ANC is a super-body that has more power than the executive branch, and could in theory remove Maduro, so far it has been clearly subordinated to the executive. It seems likely that this configuration will continue, at least in the short-term.

International engagement

  • The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights released a report recommending that the International Criminal Court open an investigation of human rights violations in Venezuela. The report describes: the use of excessive force against demonstrators including at least 46 deaths and 280 cases of arbitrary detention, over 500 extrajudicial killings in anti-crime operations, a generalized lack of rule of law, as well as a crisis in access to health care. UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed alarm at the findings. The Maduro government unsurprisingly dismissed the report. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza suggested the document was arbitrary and politicized and thereby violated the principles of objectivity and impartiality of the UN Human Rights Commission.
  • The European Union has sanctioned 11 more government officials as a response to elections it says were not free or fair. The list does not include President Nicolás Maduro, but does include Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, former VP Tareck El Aissami, as well as two National Electoral Council rectors: Tibisay Lucena and Sandra Oblitas. The EU is also expected to issue a statement condemning the election. Jorge Arreaza rejected the measure as an interference in internal matters and said Venezuela will not accept pressure from the EU.

Human rights and humanitarian emergency

  • The Pan-American Health Organization released a report documenting a surge in cases of malaria, measles, diphtheria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis as well as a progressive loss of capacity in the Venezuelan health system. The report outlines PAHO’s efforts to increase collaboration with Venezuela and neighboring countries to confront the situation.
  • 17 more political prisoners were released on June 19 in the state of Nueva Esparta. These were young people arrested during the 2017 protest cycle who had been tried in military courts. The government frames these releases as a push for dialogue.
  • NGO “Venezuelan Justice Organization” released a statement saying there were 152 active military officials who are currently detained for political reasons.

Venezuelan migration

Venezuelan migrants continue to be a concern around the region.

  • Peru: the Peruvian office of the High Commission for Refugees is collaborating with the Red Cross to install health centers near the border to attend to Venezuelans arriving in precarious conditions. The office says 2000 Venezuelans arrive daily and register 500 asylum or refugee requests. The Peruvian Episcopal Conference announced that it would be opening a “Center for Information and Orientation for Venezuelan Migrants” in July.
  • Brazil: President Michel Temer visited refugee centers in Roraima state to inspect the actions that are taking place in “Operation Reception.” According to authorities, 50,000 Venezuelans are in Roraima.
  • Ecuador: 288,000 Venezuelans have arrived to Ecuador in the past two years and the government is constructing temporary shelters with international help.

Violence

  • The “Victim’s Monitor” initiative says that police have killed 302 people in Caracas over the past year. If those killed while “resisting authority” are added, the total is 606.
  • A new smartphone application called “Pana” (buddy) is being developed and marketed in Caracas. Users can request accompaniment in the event of a car breakdown or other circumstance that leaves them stranded in the dangerous streets of Caracas. Two unarmed but well identified and connected guards are sent to join the person until the issue is resolved.

The goal of Venezuela Weekly is to provide a news digest that is brief yet highlights concrete information. As such most of our links will be to local and regional Spanish-language press. English-language links will be highlighted in bold.

Did I miss something important or get something wrong? Let me know at [email protected]