Conflict and mediation in Venezuela

A humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions is underway in Venezuela that has already caused an exodus comparable to Syria at war. According to statistics, since 2015, more than 3 million people have left the country, targeting mainly the closest countries, such as Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Brazil. In this way, the crisis in Venezuela affects not only the country but Latin America as a whole.

What is happening in Venezuela? What interests and what players are involved in the conflict? What similarities would there be between this conflict and other precedents? Can the sanctions imposed by the United States on Venezuela, by violating principles of international law, could be subject to mediation by the UN and other pacification agencies? How to overcome the polarization of conflict to build a peaceful resolution?

Owner of the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela has established itself as the second largest producer and exporter of oil, developing a position of close dependence on the United States, its main importer. The drop in international oil prices in 2014, followed by a series of disastrous economic measures, favored the country’s capital flight and caused hyperinflation, setting a major crisis in the country.

On the political front, Maduro was named successor by Chavez, who died in 2013. Elected in a lawsuit accused by the opposition as fraudulent, the government has been targeted by protests from a significant part of the population. In 2017, Maduro marginalized the National Assembly, controlled by the opposition, ordering the creation of a new legislative body known as the Constituent Assembly and arrested prominent members of the opposition.

On January 23, 2019, the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, from the Popular Will party, the most rightist and radical formation, convinced that an armed intervention would be the best response to Venezuela, self-proclaimed interin President of the Republic. The US immediately recognized his authority, while Russia sent troops in support of Maduro. Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Canada, Ecuador and Argentina followed the position of the United States. Mexico issued a joint statement with Uruguay calling for a peaceful solution to the crisis and acknowledging Maduro’s legitimacy. Bolivia and Cuba reaffirmed their support for Caracas. With the national security forces remaining loyal to Maduro and the international military forces becoming antagonistic in the conflict, the impasse remains.

The US has banned American purchases of Venezuelan oil and the Central Bank of Venezuela from conducting transactions in US dollars since May 18. In addition, they announced a cut in Latin American access to personal remittances and US credit cards by 2020. Established sanctions have had direct consequences for the population of Venezuela, especially the poorest, and increased the migratory crisis in America Latina.

The conflict in Venezuela bears resemblance to the war in Iraq. Donald Trump, like G. Bush, is a direct representative of the lobby of the arms industry and oil companies. Venezuela is one of the largest oil producers in the world, such as Iraq. In addition, Chávez’s government in re-stating PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela) has withdrawn control of US hydrocarbon companies from the country, reducing its exorbitant profits. The US also had no interference in Iraq’s oil companies before the war. As one can see, the US seems to produce wars to supply its arms and oil industry.

The National Survey on Living Conditions, an annual survey administered by three Venezuelan universities, reports there has been a 31% increase in overall mortality from 2017 to 2018, or more than 40,000 additional deaths. The Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela reported that the shortage of essential medicines was 85%.

According to the Venezuelan Medical Federation, about 22 thousand doctors, about a third of the total, left the country. “As migration accelerates in 2019 due to the tightening of sanctions, more health professionals, in addition to others with the necessary technical skills, must leave Venezuela,” the study authors predict.

According to the UN report of March 2019 entitled “Venezuela: Overview of Priority Humanitarian Needs”, the Encovi surveys indicate that, due to malnutrition, about 22% of children under five years of age did not grow or develop their bodies normally. here are also huge water and sanitation problems. The latest UN report notes that “lack of access to water, soap, chlorine and the like inhibits hand washing and domestic water treatment” and that “homes not connected to the water network are using non-potable water from streams and rivers and inadequately treated and unsafe wells”.

By attempting to bring about changes in the regime through economic measures that deny basic human rights and lead to hunger, US maintains an unacceptable practice in international relations. 

Faced with an increasingly serious situation, all conflicting sides are losing. At the most global level the situation is tense, with Trump and Putin antagonizing each other. Opposition initiatives to overthrow the Venezuelan government have failed, and the government is weakened by sanctions that have aggravated the already serious crisis. The polarization of the parties, together with the worsening of the humanitarian crisis, has been identified as one of the greatest difficulties in the mediation of the conflict. However, the humanitarian catastrophe and failure in Maduro’s fall make it imperative to build another way out of the conflict.

The situation’s status quo is serious. The exodus of Venezuelans to neighboring countries has increased the migration crisis and reaffirmed the need for humanitarian support to refugees and asylum applications. The polarization of the conflict and the severity of the humanitarian crisis have created a deadlock that necessitates the construction of an exit not yet built. 

While US and Guaidó-led opposition are betting on military intervention, other forces are working to build a peaceful alternative. A specific agreement allowed the Red Cross to enter. Ideal solutions, such as the US lowering the sanctions and countries like Brazil supporting Venezuela probably will not succeed. Zapatero, the former Prime Minister of Spain, held several meetings with the government and opposition of Venezuela and even announced an agreement that at the last moment would have had the opposition’s withdrawal. Cuba has also made efforts in this direction. Recently, Norway, which has refrained from recognizing Guaidó as interim president and has worked in the mediation of conflicts in Guatemala, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and between South and North Sudan, has arrived as mediator. It is difficult for Maduro to resign and give way to a transitional government and for Guaidó to accept the legitimacy of the Chavista leader. Then some questions can be formulated: 

  • What parties’ needs are necessary to contemplate in order overcome the polarization of the conflict and minimize the suffering of the Venezuelan people? 
  • Could an invitation to other opposition sectors for joining the mediation process favor a peaceful solution?
  • What can be done by international peace-promoting organizations in the face of sanctions set by the United States?

References

Awale Ali Kullane, 10 May 2019, WMO Conflict Insight, About the responsibility of the international community towards the Venezuelan conflict, ISSN: 2628-6998, https://worldmediation.org/conflict-insight.

Carlos Drummond, América Latina em movimento. Bloqueio dos EUA é massacre dos venezuelanos mais frágeis, 15 de maio de 2019. Available at: https://www.alainet.org/pt/articulo/199854 

Forum. Negociações na Noruega podem significar uma reviravolta do conflito na Venezuela, Maio, 2019. Available at: https://www.revistaforum.com.br/negociacoes-na-noruega-podem-significar-uma-reviravolta-do-conflito-na-venezuela/ 

Gabriel S. Delgado C, Le Monde Diplomatique. Au Venezuela, la logique du pire, 24 janvier 2019. https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/carnet/2019-01-24-Venezuela 

Sanções dos EUA contra Cuba, Irã e Venezuela violam direito internacional diz relator.Nações Unidas Brasil, 14 may, 2019Available at: https://nacoesunidas.org/sancoes-dos-eua-contra-cuba-ira-e-venezuela-violam-direito-internacional-diz-relator/ 

The New humanitariam. Venezuela: Millions at risk, at home and abroad, 19 March 2019. Available at: https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/special-report/2019/02/21/venezuela-millions-risk-home-and-abroad 

Temir Porras Ponceleón, Le Monde Diplomatique. Pour sortir de l’impasse au Venezuela, novembro, 2018. Available at:https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2018/11/PORRAS_PONCELEON/59240 

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