There is a lot of expectation in Venezuela around the national dialogue table between government and opposition, officially installed a week ago (13th) in Mexico. The first round of negotiations will take place between the 3rd and 6th of September, being mediated by Norway and the Mexican government, with Russia and the Netherlands as observers. Other countries may be accredited in the process in the future.
THE debate agenda it includes seven points, including the recognition of the country’s institutions, the end of violence and the guarantee of political rights for all. But the government’s biggest political aspiration is an end to economic sanctions. The state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) alone, for example, lost $57.1 billion in the last six years of the economic blockade. The opposition, on the other hand, continues to demand general elections and an electoral timetable.
“The fact that the memorandum of understanding was signed without acknowledging the figure of the interim government seems to me to say a lot. But not surprising. There is a progressive recognition of the difficulty of continuing to sustain this strategy, both internationally and domestically”, points out political scientist John Magdaleno.
Other national dialogue tables had already taken place in 2019 and 2020 in Venezuela, which led to real changes, such as the reform of electoral power. The difference is that parties that made up the parallel government of the self-proclaimed Juan Guaidó now sit down to dialogue.
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“It is a structure that was created by the entire US establishment and dismantling it requires political, military and pressure machinery, something that is not easy, but it is the first time that a step forward has been taken”, analyzes the researcher from the Samuel Institute Robinson, Gustavo Borges.
Shortly after the installation, foreign policy representatives from the United States, Canada and the European Union issued a joint statement expressing “a willingness to review sanctions policies if the regime makes significant progress in the announced negotiations”.
“What motivates the United States? We can analyze that it doesn’t only refer to the economic aspect, since they managed to survive without Venezuelan oil. But there may be other reasons that motivate this. The US is experiencing a crisis of global credibility”, argues Borges.
The opposition created a unitary platform to designate its representatives: Carlos Vecchio, appointed as Juan Guaidó’s ambassador to the United States; former deputies Tomas Guanipa, Luis Aquiles Moreno and Emílio Rondón Hernández; the former mayor of the municipality of Baruta, Gerardo Blyde; Mariela Magallanes, ambassador of Guaidó in Italy; and Roberto Enríquez, president of the Copei party.
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“Various sectors of the opposition agree that it is necessary to reactivate social and political mobilization within the country, which was the task abandoned in the last four years, when sectors focused on creating an external threat to the political regime. The creation of this external threat neglected the configuration and strengthening of a source of internal pressure”, comments professor at the Central University of Venezuela, John Magdaleno.
The Bolivarian government will be represented by the president of the National Assembly, Jorge Rodríguez, the governor of Miranda state, Héctor Rodríguez, and the president’s son, deputy Nicolás Maduro Guerra.
Parallel to the negotiations, the electoral calendar for the November 21 elections advances, when governors, state deputies, mayors and councilors will be chosen. This will be the last electoral process before the 2024 presidential elections.
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To encourage the participation of all sectors, the National Electoral Council (CNE) re-entitled the Democratic Unity Table (MUD), an opposition electoral alliance, which won the majority of the Legislative Power in 2015.
Henrique Capriles, leader of the First Justice party, announced that he will run. Guaidó proposes the creation of a Wide Front, despite not yet ensuring their participation.
“There are only ten days until the nominations and there is still no agreement. The opposition is not at its best strategically. The unitary platform is an effort to rebuild a coalition that has experienced a huge defeat in the strategic sphere and must move forward”, defends Magdaleno.
In 2022, Maduro reaches the middle of his second presidential term and, according to the Venezuelan Constitution, a recall referendum could be called. To shorten the Chavez administration, opponents would have to gather signatures from 20% of the electorate in each state and then obtain more than 6.5 million votes.
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“There are some sectors that are mobilizing for the initiative of holding a presidential recall referendum and this path is most likely to be pursued. There are not many electoral options other than calling a recall referendum. The advance of presidential and parliamentary elections is unlikely”, points out Magdaleno.
According to the latest company opinion polls Hinterlaces, 73% of Venezuelans believe the decision not to participate in elections is incorrect, whereas 44% would agree with a recall referendum.
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— 𝙃𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙚𝙨 (@HinterlacesNet) August 9, 2021
The main leaders of the so-called G4 – a group that brings together the largest opposition parties (Democratic Action, First Justice, Popular Will and Um Novo Tempo) – do not reach 40% of popular support. Only Guaidó adds 73% rejection.
For Magdaleno, the figures reflect the disillusionment of the electorate with the possibility of political changes, which is why he says that the November elections will be a time to measure popular discontent and the support that the opposition may have at the polls.
“For me, the thermometer that represents this election is not to know how many posts the officialdom will obtain, since I know that they will win the majority. What is at stake is to see if the opposition uses these elections to organize, articulate and coordinate the bases that support it”, defends the Venezuelan political scientist.
Edition: Arturo Hartmann