Venezuela Weekly: Maduro Government and Opposition Meet in Norway

Representatives of the Maduro government and representatives of the Venezuelan opposition are meeting this week in Norway. The Norwegian government announced that talks on Saturday. Importantly, both sides have sent high-level moderates from their coalition. (Transitions research generally suggests that breakthroughs are most likely when it is soft-liners from each side who negotiate.) Apparently, this time they are meeting face-to-face. (backgrounder on Venezuelan dialogues and negotiations here from CNNespañol. Backgrounder on Norway’s peacemaking vocation here.)

Participants suggest that there were no tangible results the first day of negotiations, however they will continue to meet through Wednesday. Guaidó released a letter of support as did the International Contact Group (ICG) sponsored by the European Union (EU). The U.S. State Department released a statement saying the only thing to be negotiated is the conditions of Maduro’s departure.

The hemisphere’s top diplomat OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro vocally opposed these diplomatic efforts, mistakenly suggesting that Norway recognizes Maduro as president (Norway has not recognized the May 2018 presidential election that gave Maduro a new term). He suggested that this is not a conflict to be mediated but a dictatorship that has to be overcome.

International Contact Group

  • On June 3 there will be a ministerial level meeting between representatives of the ICG and the Lima Group. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and the Foreign Ministers of Canada, Chile and Peru will meet to discuss potential collaboration.
  • The EU named Uruguayan-Spanish diplomat Enrique Iglesias to head up its efforts regarding Venezuela (background article here). This has been interpreted as a sign of the importance the EU is giving to the ICG.
  • The context for this is provided by the recent European elections. With open disagreement between French President Emmanuel Macron and German Prime Minister Angela Merkel about the most important posts, and with the rise of new political forces in the European Parliament, the existing arrangements will be difficult to continue and controversial issues like Venezuela may become secondary priorities.

Other Initiatives

  • U.S. Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams met with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolín and Venezuelan Cardenal Baltazar Porras in the Vatican regarding Venezuela.
  • The U.S. and Canada spoke about both Venezuela and Cuba.
  • The Lima Group will meet on June 6 in Guatemala to discuss the Venezuela crisis.
  • More than 550 people, among them politicians, journalists, human right activists, signed a document titled “For a peaceful, electoral, democratic and sovereign solution in Venezuela”

Venezuelan Socialist Party

  • Maduro is increasingly mentioning the possibility of moving up the legislative elections which should not actually take place until 2020. Elections under current conditions would probably be boycotted by the opposition which would in turn allow the government to take control of the National Assembly and allow it to portray the opposition as undemocratic.

Economy

  • On Tuesday May 28 Venezuela’s Central Bank surprisingly released economic data it has not published for years. The data show that the economy contracted by almost 20% in the first 3 quarters of 2018 and has the highest inflation in the world.
  • Venezuela has sold 23 tons of gold since April, in defiance of U.S. sanctions, moving it through Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Gasoline shortages are hitting western Venezuela especially hard.
  • A German shipping firm has moved to legally detain three of Venezuelan oil tankers to collect on late payments owed to it by the state-run oil company.
  • Petroleum exports from Russia to the U.S. are growing rapidly as Russia takes advantage of lost deliveries from sanctions-hit Venezuela and supply cuts by OPEC members.

Migration

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in its May guidance note highlights that those that flee Venezuela need international protection and asks the states to consider refugee status for Venezuelans.
  • Trinidad and Tobago continue to have a hard line against Venezuelan migrants. Prime Minister Keith Rowley declared that his government is even considering closing its ports to Venezuelans as the refugee crisis is hurting the local population. He also said he would inform the UN security council about the impact of the Venezuelan immigrants on his country.
  • Colombia continues to call for more international funding for the Venezuelan migration crisis. It says it has received just one-fifth of what the international community has promised to address the crisis.
  • The government of Ecuador is considering the establishment of a humanitarian visa for Venzuelans.

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]