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Think beyond force: Venezuela’s political future

  • Dimitris Pantoulas
  • 3 May 2019

The prolonged political deadlock in Venezuela needs to be settled so the country can begin the road to recovery.

A burning National Guard vehicle is seen following a rally against the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and to commemorate May Day in Caracas, Venezuela, May 1, 2019. ( Reuters )

The "final phase" of Operation Liberty was the riskiest move that Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido made in his attempt to remove Nicolas Maduro from office.  

At Dawn on Wednesday, Juan Guaido accompanied by his political mentor Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader held for two years under house arrest but apparently released by defecting security forces, and a handful army officers and rank-and-file soldiers called for a military and popular uprising that would topple Maduro from power.  

During the crucial first hours of the uprising, it was clear that the opposition's gamble was ill organised and only a few low-ranking soldiers had broken away from the government and the calls for more to defect went unanswered.  

By the end of the day, security forces dispersed the protests, and Leopoldo Lopez took refuge in the Spanish Embassy in Caracas, posing a diplomatic problem for Spain.

The explanation for the opposition’s failure vary, but information so far indicates that Guaido and Lopez moved with their plans earlier than expected, perhaps frightened by rumours that their plans had been leaked, and that some of the conspirators were working on the government’s side.

A failed military uprising logically has severe consequences for its instigators, but this is not the case in Venezuela's schizophrenic politics. One day after the unsuccessful uprising, Juan Guaido led a demonstration in Caracas in another effort to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

On the other end of things, President Maduro addressed his supporters in a rally in Caracas where he promised to correct the failures of his government, but did not give precise details and presented no plan to deal with the opposition.  The situation remains unsettled and unclear.

From what we have experienced during the last two days it does seem clear that none of the two opposing political forces has sufficient power to impose its will to the other.  

The country cannot continue with two political forces that operate in parallel and sporadically clash; it has had detrimental consequences on the country’s governance, and the instability and uncertainty destroy any attempts for the country's recovery.  

Political forces need to find a new approach to break the country's political deadlock, an approach that moves away from zero-sum solutions, and that will understand negotiation and dialogue as a fundamental element of any political process – and not as treason or weakness.

 Certainly, after the last two days, Maduro can feel that he has won this round and his strategy of attrition could wear down Guaido and his allies to the point of collapse through continuous losses, regardless the damage it does to the country.

Guaido's side is now weaker, and many inside and outside the country may feel that his strategy has not been bold enough to bring Maduro to his knees. The strategy for Maduro’s overthrow has gone to such extremes that some consider that a possible solution is to send foreign mercenaries to support Guaido's efforts to topple Maduro, as the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater USA argued recently.

Furthermore, in an international context that reminds one of the Cold War, with the US and Russia clashing in different parts of the world, and the region moving towards the right, the case for military intervention is gaining ground and increasing anxiety.

However, recent political developments can function as a springboard to a viable and peaceful solution. In past days we have seen a series of proposals and ideas that argue in favour of a negotiated and consensus solution.

Similarly, the attempts of the European promoted International Contact Group that mediate in the Venezuelan crisis is moving towards this direction, (the  “support for a political, peaceful, democratic and Venezuelan-owned solution to the crisis”). Most of the proposals include one or more of the following ideas:

  • An inclusive transitional government constituted by members of the two political poles with the possibility for representation from the country’s stakeholders.  The new government will focus on the economy and the aspects of humanitarian crises while will prepare the country for new general elections.
  • General elections.
  • Electoral reforms that will guaranty the representation of all the political forces in the country’s future
  • Re-institutionalisation of the different branches of government, especially the electoral and judicial branches.
  • Transitional justice or special arrangements for political wrongdoers. 
  • A clear framework about the army’s future role in the country’s governance.
  • Use of the referendums to ratify political processes

Venezuela’s political crisis has gone on for too long, exacerbating the dire situation of the majority of the population. Many think that bold and quick actions will lead to the crisis’ solution, but as the last two days have shown that is not the case.

Nevertheless, the two opposing sides and their local and international allies should understand that the balance of power in the country does not favour a unilateral solution, and Venezuelans cannot be hostage to political games and foreign interests.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to opinion.editorial@trtworld.com

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