On August 13, a new negotiation process between the government and the Venezuelan opposition began in Mexico. This would be the fifth negotiation process since 2014 and the second to take place under the leadership of the Chancellery of the Kingdom of Norway. The memory of the unsuccessful meetings then in Caracas, Oslo, Santo Domingo and later in Barbados is still fresh in the collective memory of the country.
The new example of a political meeting demonstrates the scale of the deliberate and systematic destruction of Venezuela. Hegemonic control of public institutions, blocking of elections, persecution, arrest and harassment of parties, political activists, trade unionists and other forms of political dissent are the main features of the Venezuelan political environment.
On this occasion, the Maduro regime is much more needy and the diplomatic and financial encirclement, it seems, is doing damage. Internal tensions were evident in the recent internal elections, ahead of the regional elections to be held later this year, which would prove that the discourse on political self-sufficiency could reach its limits.
What’s new in the 2021 negotiations in Mexico?
Unlike previous negotiations, in this one the seven agenda items were open to the public: political rights for all; electoral guarantees and electoral calendar; lifting of sanctions and restitution of assets held abroad; respect for the constitutional rule of law; political coexistence, renunciation of violence and reparation for victims of violence; protection of the national economy and social protection measures; guarantees of implementation, monitoring and verification of what has been agreed. This agenda, as in the previous round, maintains the principle that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.
In this context, communication between the parties is particularly remarkable. For the government delegation, the opposition is no longer a “terrorist and destabilizing” group. Even if for part of the opposition delegation, the Maduro regime is “the government”. This seemed to foresee the end of the duality of governments, although it does not necessarily represent the end of the diplomatic support of more than 50 countries around the world for the leadership of Juan Guaidó and other opposition leaders. As opposition delegate Gerardo Blyde himself acknowledged, “each party had to give up part of its narrative to reach common ground”.
Existential negotiation for Venezuela and its politicians
The erosion of Venezuelan political leadership on both sides of the table is now undeniable. After the questionable legislative elections of 2019, the political disaffection of the citizens increased as the humanitarian crisis the country is undergoing inside and outside its borders worsened. Between the government’s precariousness in managing the pandemic, the political fragmentation of the opposition and the lack of agreements for humanitarian aid to reach its destination, discredit and despair cross the entire political spectrum.
In this sense, the need for an agreement is necessary for Venezuelans, but also for the wounded political class because both sides of the table need to revitalize their legitimacy.
Another aspect is the effect that the possible judicialization of the Venezuelan government could have before the ICC (International Criminal Court), which could trigger ungovernability at both national and international levels. The reports documented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the repeated actions of the Venezuelan government in light of its recommendations, could represent an aggravating factor for the negotiation process.
Negotiations in Mexico
The fact that the negotiations have been proposed in Mexico also responds to the initiative of the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his chancellor Marcelo Ebrard, who, in addition to not hiding their electoral aspirations, seeks to supplement the usual diplomatic support that the Mexican government gave to Maduro. On the other hand, Mexico is currently the only ally in the region that is not immersed in a national political upheaval, like Cuba and Nicaragua, or in a pre-electoral climate, like Argentina.
Another diplomat put forward in the negotiation is Dag Nylander, the director of the Norwegian Conflict Resolution Center, who is very familiar with Venezuelan foreign policy. In 2017, he was delegated by the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, as a representative in the face of the border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana.
However, both sides face great social disaffection. As for the opposition, we can see its erratic behavior in the reconstruction of “democratic unity”, a complex task, sporadic and postponed by a leadership that has cost more than expected to unite wills, especially in an electoral situation. In this context, these negotiations could help revive its international political recognition and achieve significant progress at the national level.
It is certainly premature to state a result for such a complex process. However, due to the repeated failures of previous experiences, as well as the appeasement obtained by the government in these processes, it seems difficult to reach an agreement. Due to the historical negotiator of the Chavismo, the only thing that can be demonstrated is the continuity of his fragility in the face of criticism, the unreliability of his word and, above all, his vigorous disposition to the excessive use of violence.
However, in the current circumstances and taking into account the internal pressures of Chavismo, one cannot exclude any concession of the government which does not touch very closely the institutions which can guarantee its perenniality in power. This, with the intention of succeeding in easing the sanctions which are imposed internationally on the senior officials of the dictatorship.
We must also consider that the international climate seems favorable to the reconciliation of positions. The Biden administration’s demands appear to be in line with those reiterated by the European Union and some countries in the Latin American region in terms of authorizing humanitarian aid in the face of a possible gradual dismantling of sanctions. A possibility which will depend on the ability of the parties to make concessions.
We will have to wait and consider the next events. At the moment, we only have nine representatives on each side, questionable political representation, mutual mistrust and renewed expectations of a new negotiation. All those gathered in Mexico are trying once again to understand each other and to find a solution to the barbarism that Venezuelans are experiencing.
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