Venezuela Weekly: Strategizing for January 10

The approaching date of Nicolas Maduro’s swearing for his second term has regional and domestic opponents discussing and formulating their strategies.

Peru is proposing to members of the Lima Group that they break off diplomatic relations with Venezuela and that they begin to interact officially with the National Assembly, which is the only democratically elected body they recognize. They also proposed that sanctions be imposed that would prohibit Venezuelan leaders from entering Lima Group countries. Colombian President Ivan Duque is also suggesting that all fifteen Latin American countries that did not recognize Venezuela’s presidential elections should withdraw their ambassadors.

Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly is debating how they should confront January 10,  with some suggesting the AN has the power to name a new president since Nicolás Maduro will essentially be usurping functions and that will leave the presidency vacant. Others suggest that would simply create false expectations and that the AN should seek to move forward a transition process that could lead to new presidential elections.

This debate brings to the fore a long-term tendency within the Venezuelan opposition to confuse legitimacy and power, legality and causality. So for example, this week the National Assembly declared not that the municipal council elections were illegitimate but that that they were “non-existent.”

This conflation is popular among the opposition base, but time and again has led to frustrated expectations that an illegitimate Chavismo would fall under its own weight or inevitably draw international intervention. For example, on Sunday radical opposition leader María Corina Machado applauded high opposition abstention in the municipal council elections on Sunday, December 9, tweeting “Venezuela is CLEAR and in defiance of the criminal state. BRAVO. No more farses. This will only end with FORCE.”

Yet the high abstention she applauded did not lead to any domestic or international show of force but rather allowed pro-government candidates to sweep the elections, winning 36 of 51 seats in the Caracas metropolitan area. The Socialist party now controls the municipal council of Baruta, a strongly opposition municipality in which many opposition protests used to originate.

Russian Support

  • In the wake of Nicolas Maduro’s visit to Moscow last week, Russia flew nuclear-capable, long-distance bombers to Venezuela, immediately raising the ire of the U.S. officials. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the visit should be seen for what it is “two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”
  • Venezuelan officials immediately grabbed the opportunity to point out their side of the strategic situation. Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said “It’s strange the U.S. government questions our right to cooperate on defense and security with other countries when @realDonaldTrump publicly threatens us with military invasion.” President of the National Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello taunted the domestic opposition saying they continually ask for foreign military intervention but go crazy over a courtesy visit by the Russian Air Force.
  • But the Russian planes could portend a more permanent presence. Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya is reporting that Russia was seeking to deploy the aircraft at Venezuela’s Orchila Island in light of the US plans to withdraw from a nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

International Engagement

  • Adam Smith, the incoming Chair of the Armed Services Committee recently rejected the idea of US military intervention in Venezuela.
  • Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell has suggested that Spain will participate in whatever “contact group” the EU puts together.

Human Rights

  • Carolina Jiménez of Amnesty International says that Venezuela’s crisis can be typified as a “complex humanitarian emergency.” A CHE is generally understood as a crisis “that is caused by and results in a complicated set of social, medical, and often political circumstances, usually leading to great human suffering and death and requiring external assistance and aid.” Jiménez argued that the rights to nutrition and health are those that have most been violated.

Indigenous Protest

  • The Pemón indigenous group shut down roads and even the airport in Canaima National Park after one of their members was killed in a confrontation with security forces. The government suggests they were trying to protect the Pemón and shut down an illegal gold mine. The Pemón say the government is using this as a pretext to take over indigenous lands.

News and Information

  • Efecto Cocuyo has released a new series called “Venezuela Sin Datos” (Venezuela without Data) which looks at the different domains in which official data has not been released on a regular basis in years, including health, education and the economy, and reviews the most important figures that are available.
  • Recognition keeps rolling in for Efecto Cocuyo. Editor-in-Chief Luz Mely Reyes was named by Time Magazine as one of its Guardians in the War on Truth, in its annual designation of a “Person of the Year.” This follows her recent receipt of the 2018 “International Press Freedom Award” given by the International Committee to Protect Journalists. Efecto Cocuyo also recently won the Gabriel García Márquez Award and the Latin American Digital Media Award for its report on Veneuelan migration “Venezuelan en Fuga.”

Migration

  • The UN Organization for International Migration released a report on Venezuelan migration to Ecuador showing that so far in 2018 698,006 Venezuelans have entered Ecuador, with 576,537 exiting, leaving approximately 121,469. They also found that 98% of Venezuelan migrants they interviewed had confronted discrimination.

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]