Venezuela Weekly: Pressure and engagement—will AMLO change the mix?

The election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) as president of Mexico has generated concerns regarding this government’s eventual stance with respect to Venezuela. In his victory speech, AMLO suggested his government would effectively move back to the “Estrada Doctrine” that emphasized non-intervention and self-determination. Mexico has been one of the Maduro government’s most important critics in the region and a key supporter of the 14 country Lima Group organized to pressure Venezuela. However, on this blog Geoff Ramsey argued that even if AMLO’s election means less pressure on the Maduro government, it could lead to more engagement. He points out that under the Estrada Doctrine, Mexico participated in the Contadora Group that promoted peace in Central America in the 1980s, and in the 1990s sponsored peace talks between the Colombian government and guerrilla groups. In any case, AMLO does not actually assume the presidency for another five months.

  • Out-going president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos publicly called on President Donald Trump to tell Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop supporting the Maduro government.
  • The Swiss government added 11 Venezuelan officials to their sanctions list.
  • In an interview with BBC Mundo I suggested that international pressure would be ineffective without an organized opposition inside of Venezuela, and that that international pressure needs to be accompanied by engagement.

Democracy

The National Electoral Council (CNE) announced elections for municipal councils, for December 9, 2018. However, the principle opposition parties will not be able to participate including Leopoldo López’s Popular Will party (VP), the Popular Justice party (PJ) and Democratic Action (AD). In December 2017 the Natoinal Constituent Assembly (ANC) decreed that parties that do not participate in an election, are thereby excluded from the following election. This requirement is neither in the Constitution nor Venezuela’s electoral law. 30 new parties will be given the chance to be legalized, by going through a signature process in which, over the course of one weekend in August, they need to get the signatures of .5% of the registered electorate in 12 or more states. These 30 parties are in addition to the 15 who can run in the municipal council elections because they participated in the May 20 presidential elections. The CNE is opening the Electoral Registry for enrollment for one month, from July 23 to August 23.

  • The Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV), the governing body of the Venezuelan Catholic Church, released a statement enjoining civil societal organizations and political parties to demand the restoration of the sovereign power of the people. They also urged the Venezuelan opposition “to offer the people alternatives for change, and work harder for the people’s well-being.”

Human rights

  • On July 9, political prisoners in the Helicoide—the hilltop Caracas prison used by Venezuela’s intelligence police (SEBIN)—rioted to protest abuse, for the second time in three months. Some of the prisoners have actually had signed discharge papers for two years, but have nevertheless not been released. Their demands centered around having their cases reviewed and actually brought to court. Two of the prisoners were moved to a jail in the interior. The rest are still holed up, unable to communicate to the outside.
  • The Venezuelan Program for Action and Education in Human Rights (PROVEA), Venezuela’s leading human rights group, said so far this year there has been 85 cases of “state kidnapping,” by which they mean arbitrary detention. 38% of these people were temporarily detained, 26% had signed release papers that had not been honored, and 59% have not been formally accused but remained jailed. PROVEA says these arbitrary detentions are a form of “state terror” insofar as they seek to generate fear in the population as a form of control.
  • Research done in the Luis Razetti Hospital in Barcelona, Venezuela reveals the extent of the hunger in Venezuela. So far this year 49 people have died due to nutritional deficiencies, 80% of these have been infants under 5 months of age.
  • Public transportation is in crisis, with many lines being covered by cargo trucks not fit for public transportation.

Venezuelan migration

  • The Organization of American States and the Pan American Development Foundation have signed an agreement to collaborate in the protection and local integration of Venezuelan migrants.
  • Colombian migration authorities are expecting to regularize 442,000 Venezuelans in Colombia with a “special permanence permit” (PEP). This will be in addition to the 180,000 who already have a PEP.
  • Brazil has received over 24,000 refugee applications from Venezuelans so far this year.

Violence

  • President Nicolás Maduro announced on July 16, the launching of the “Gran Misión Cuadrantes Paz” (Peace Sectors Mission) This will include the division of the national territory into 2,144 areas in which the National Bolivarian Police will operate.

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]