Venezuela Weekly: Negotiation Noise

Venezuelan political analyst Michael Penfold argues that in recent weeks noise regarding negotiation has been increasing. He suggests it is clear that the opposition’s strategy of withdrawing from the national political game, seeking to elevate international pressure, and waiting for an internal collapse, has not worked; nor has the government’s strategy of trouncing and eliminating the opposition, leading to a stalemate. “Those who say that there is no need for negotiation in this country seem to underestimate the possibility that the nefarious current situation could continue long term.” He suggests the way out would be negotiations creating a set of strong institutions that could provide guarantees to each side.

“Insisting on increasing the costs associated with international threats is insufficient without giving clear signals of a willingness to provide certain concessions [such as] transitional justice, overrepresentation of minorities, assured fiscal transfers, and multiple forms of amnesty. Such a negotiation would not be treated as a simple commercial transaction but as a mechanism to agree upon a set of constitutional, judicial and electoral institutions that will guarantee to each side that losing the presidency would not turn into a drama.”

The background of these negotiation noises is the looming inauguration of Nicolás Maduro’s second presidential term on January 10. Rector of the Catholic University Jose Virtuoso has called Maduro’s second term an “illegal extension” of the presidential mandate, and calls on Venezuelan citizens to defend the Constitution and demand their rights to elect their government. Maduro himself seems worried. As reported last week, his representatives have made overtures to the opposition for dialogue which were, in turn, thoroughly rebuffed by opposition leaders.

There is noise and movement in the bases and on the edges of each political faction as well. The opposition’s Frente Amplio—an initiative created earlier this year to broaden opposition participation—is planning to carry out a series of regional meetings they are calling the Free Venezuela Congress, to debate and elaborate proposals. The initiative will go into the various regions of Venezuela and consult with multiple sectors, including consultations with communities, students and workers. On the other hand, dissident Chavista Juan Barreto recently argued that the only way to generate a dynamic that could break through the current impasse is by mobilizing social forces.

Unfortunately, the international community is as divided on issues of negotiation and dialogue as Venezuelans are. In a radio interview, the French Ambassador to Venezuela Romain Nadal argued that actors and stake-holders within Venezuela need to search for a political solution. He emphasized that the European Union’s sanctions could be reversed “tomorrow” if there is a political solution. The EU is particularly worried about the lack of contact and dialogue between the two political forces. In contrast, Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro seemed to rule out dialogue, in a video posted to his Twitter account. “No internal actor can lend himself or herself to a supposed dialogue. We think of the words of Simone de Beauvoir that the oppressor would not be as strong if it did not have accomplices among the oppressed.” This comes two months after Almagro stated “I don’t think any option should be ruled out,” when asked about military intervention (h/t Phil Gunson).

No end in sight for hyperinflation

  • Ecoanalitica, Venezuela’s leading economic consulting firm, points out that since raises were rolled out at the end of August, they have lost 85% of their value because of hyperinflation caused by continual expansions of the money supply. They project a 23.5% reduction in the gross domestic product during 2018 and suggest that in the last trimester the parallel market for dollars will soar.

Humanitarian emergency

  • The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that Venezuela is the country in the region where hunger has increased the most, from 1.1 million in 2010-12 to 3.7 million in 2015-17. This piqued no small amount of sardonic commentary from government opponents who have long resented the recognition the FAO has given the Venezuelan government over the years.

Migration

  • The United Nations High Commission on Refugees says 3 million Venezuelans have left the country, approximately 10% of the population. This is an increase from the figures released by UNICEF last month saying there were 2.6 million Venezuelans living abroad.
  • The Rector of the Central University of Venezuela, Cecilia Garcia Arocha says she signs 10 resignations per day from faculty and workers who are leaving for other opportunities.
  • Discussions among Colombia, Perú and Ecuador have been leading to work on a “regional migration permit” which could provide some coordination between the countries to attend to Venezuelan migrants while cracking down on human trafficking.

Human Rights

  • The Venezuelan Program for Action and Education in Human Rights (PROVEA) released a report called “Pursuing Chavismo,” describing the harassment and discrimination that dissident Chavistas are subject to.

Violence and Territory

  • On November 4 the Venezuelan National Guard (GNB) was apparently attacked by members of Colombian guerrilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN), near Puerto Ayacucho in Amazonas State. Despite the capture of an ELN leader, Luis Felipe Ortega Bernal, Nicolás Maduro claims the attack was perpetrated by Colombian paramilitaries.
  • On October 30, Colombian criminal group Los Rastrojos attacked a GNB base hours after the GNB had arrested two members of the Rastrojos in efforts to crack down on gasoline smuggling. Insight Crime reports that the Rastrojos maintain a base of operations in Táchira state near the Colombian border.
  • The GNB has militarized the area in San Juan de las Galdonas in the Paria Penninsula in the far Northeast corner of Venezuela since armed gangs had begun to control residents’ movements and prohibit people from accessing the coast. This area has long been a major exit point for drug trafficking.

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.

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