Venezuela Weekly: After Modest Mobilization, No Clear Path Forward for Opposition

The highly-anticipated opposition march on Saturday, November 16 in Caracas was sizeable but significantly smaller and with less energy and optimism than those in the first quarter of the year. National Assembly President Juan Guaidó’s stated strategy is to increase pressure on the government by reviving street mobilizations. Sector-based demonstrations will continue in the following weeks. The success of the protest was in part diminished by government actions. Netblocks.org reported widespread internet outages during Guaidó’s speech and Venezuela’s underground transportation system was closed down by authorities.

In a similar sized rally, Maduro’s supporters gathered in the capital to demonstrate against the “coup d’état” in Bolivia. The UN estimated the crowd size for both mobilizations in Caracas around 50.000 people

Many feared the duelling mobilizations could lead to violent confrontations. The Office of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner called on Venezuelan authorities to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly. The mobilization in Caracas took place without any significant incidents.

However, the night before, unidentified security forces raided the headquarters of Voluntad Popular (VP- the party of the Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López) in Caracas. hooded armed agents asked those present to hand over their cell phones and lie on the ground. Opposition representatives said the security agents stole computers, cell phones, identity documents, and an undetermined amount of money. Maduro government officials have not confirmed or denied the event.

Despite growing international repudiation of Bolivia’s interim government, support for what has happened there remains central to opposition discourse. Guaidó directed marchers to head to the Bolivian Embassy in Caracas to show support. Jeanine Añez and Guaidó have mutually recognized each other, and Añez has cut diplomatic ties with Maduro’s government.

Saturday’s march can be characterized neither as a failure nor a clear success. It showed the opposition is still active and can rally its people, but only underlined the necessity of a political strategy beyond street mobilization.

Negotiations

  • Mexico, Uruguay, and representatives of the Caribbean Community issued a statement calling all Venezuelan political actors to resume dialogue efforts. These countries supporting the “Montevideo mechanism” welcomed the partial agreements between the Maduro government and minority parties of the opposition, and rejected the invocation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR).
  • Nicolás Maduro said that the “Oslo mechanism” (as the Norwegian-mediated negotiation process came to be called in Venezuela) remains alive. However, Guaidó replied that the negotiations are dead, and street mobilization is now the way forward.
  • Juan Guaidó’s ambassador to the U.S. Carlos Vecchio said that the members of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) will meet in the first days of December to impose more sanctions on the Maduro government.
  • A leaked recording of a conversation between Colombia’s ambassador to the U.S. Francisco Santos and Colombia’s new foreign minister Claudia Blum reveals the absence of any clear strategy for addressing Venezuela. In the recording Blum suggests they could carryout “undercover actions” inside Venezuela, “to generate noise and support for the opposition.”

Migration

  • In a joint statement, the countries that participated in the Quito Process meeting in Bogotá have made pledges and commitments about the reception, care, and integration of Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and confirmed their commitment to coordinate the measures implemented to facilitate Venezuelans mobility. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) welcomed the progress.
  • The representative of UNICEF, Florence Bauer, praised Brazil’s efforts in sheltering Venezuelan immigrant children.
  • The International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced the launch of a vocational training program for 400 young migrants from Venezuela in Colombia and Peru. Citibank is funding the program.
  • The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) estimates that 400,000 children of Venezuelan origin lack access to formal education in Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador.

Economy

  • Jaws dropped among economists when Maduro said in an interview that the country is in the process of dollarization, and he “does not see it as a bad thing” as this process can help the country’s recovery. Many economists raised doubts about the desireability of this defacto dollarization.
  • Reuters reported that the use of euros in Venezuela has boomed as Maduro’s government is receiving them for more of its oil and gold exports.
  • More jaws dropped when oft-quoted University of Miami expert in corruption and drug trafficking Bruce Bagley was accused of being involved in a scheme to launder $2.5 million coming from corruption schemes in Venezuela.