The straight and narrow path to peace in Venezuela – the world peace organization
Venezuela is in the throes of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the Western Hemisphere. The numbers continue to break records: an exodus of 5.6 million people since 2015 marks the biggest migration crisis in recent Latin America’s history, and an 80% economic contraction since 2012 marks the most recent recession. depth of modern history. By comparison, the Great Depression of the 1930s caused the US economy to contract 30%.
Inflation in Venezuela has averaged around 2,300% each year, prompting workers to race to buy commodities once paid for before money loses its value further. What was once the richest country in South America is now among the poorest. Paralyzing shortages of food, water and medical supplies have led to increased maternal and child mortality. In addition, exact figures are difficult to find because the Venezuelan government has long since stopped publishing statistics.
But perhaps most extraordinary is that since 2018 Venezuela has had two competing presidents. When President Nicolás Maduro first took office in 2013, the country’s economy was already in shambles. As declining production and rising prices sparked civil unrest, Maduro tightened his grip on power. Yet in 2016, the opposition parties won a majority in the National Assembly with Juan Guaidó at their head. Out of fear of losing power, Maduro created a National Constituent Assembly, which he filled with government supporters and replaced Guaido’s National Assembly. President Maduro was re-elected in 2018, but the vote was widely dismissed as illegitimate. In 2019, Mr. Guaidó proclaimed himself interim president and since then he has been seeking international recognition.
More than 50 countries, including the United States, as well as the United Kingdom and the European Union, recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. However, Nicolás Maduro remains in command of the country’s security forces and still resides in the presidential palace. His government has become increasingly authoritarian, says Human Rights Watch (HRW). For years, HRW has reported arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, attacks on freedom of expression, and harassment of human rights activists and aid workers in Venezuela.
So far, the response from the US, the EU and several Latin American countries has consisted of targeted sanctions against senior officials implicated in the abuses. Former US President Donald Trump imposed punitive sanctions on Venezuela in an attempt to remove Marudo from office. The attempt failed, accelerating the economic decline and, in effect, punishing the already suffering Venezuelan citizens. According to Al JazeeraMaduro insisted that he would not compromise if the United States continued to force him to submit. He says all political demands on the Venezuelan government are “over.”
The reality is that President Maduro has already been forced to make a number of major concessions. After years of harsh damaging policies, it seems he has pulled a page out of the International Monetary Fund’s stabilization manual. Maduro eliminated various price controls and subsidies, which were extremely ineffective and cost the government money it did not have. He eased restrictions on imports, which Venezuelan citizens rely heavily on. He also loosened his grip on the exchange rate to allow more dollars to enter the economy. This has brought much-needed stability to economic transactions and is slowly reviving private enterprise.
As rural areas continue to suffer, in Caracas these changes are already making a big difference. Supermarket aisles are no longer sterile and customers no longer need to carry stacks of banknotes to pay for basic items. Yet Venezuela is far from out of the woods. According to the United Nations (UN), around 60% of households live in poverty and 7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. It was not until Wednesday July 7 that Maduro finally authorized the United Nations World Food Program to start distributing food in the country.
The attention of Western forces, however, has shifted to the political front. On June 25, the US, EU and Canada announced their readiness to “review” the sanctions against Venezuela if progress is made in negotiations to hold “credible” elections. . Preparations are underway for Norway to mediate in talks between Maduro and Guaidó due to take place in Mexico next month. There is also talk of an EU delegation providing election observers for the November governors and mayors elections, The hill reports. If credible electoral authorities can establish basic democratic institutions, it is hoped that this could set the stage for next year’s elections for state and municipal legislatures, and possibly for the presidential election in 2024.
However, signs of progress were clouded by the arrest of Freddy Guevara last week. On Monday July 12, the opposition leader and close ally of Juan Guaidó was arrested on a highway in Caracas by government authorities. Venezuela’s attorney general said Guevara would be charged with “crimes of terrorism, attacks on the constitutional order, conspiracy to commit a crime and treason”. At the time of Guevara’s arrest, Guaidó tried to leave his home to help him but was threatened by armed men who surrounded his car. The US State Department has condemned the arrest, although at the time of writing, it has not been discussed whether it would alter Washington’s commitment to ease sanctions in exchange for reform. democratic.
This arrest is a poignant reminder of the fragility of political progress in Venezuela. Despite signs that Maduro is more willing to cooperate with Western forces, he claimed just two weeks ago that the CIA and the US military were planning to assassinate him. Skepticism remains on both sides. The EU was quick to note that its electoral commission was visiting Caracas on a purely exploratory basis ahead of the November ballot. “We do not want to validate an election that does not deserve it,” warned an EU diplomatic source. “There is still a long way to go towards standardization. “
It is certain that initiating a gradual transition to democratic reform will have a number of positive spillover effects. With credible institutions and responsible leadership in place, Venezuela will be in a better position to stabilize the economy, end extreme hunger, control the COVID-19 pandemic, and lift millions of people out of abject poverty. Yet even the tectonic changes in the political landscape will be too slow and uncertain to bring immediate relief to many Venezuelan citizens. US and EU attempts to advance democratic reform must be complemented by apolitical humanitarian efforts.
Maduro’s decision to allow the United Nations World Food Program to enter the country last Wednesday is a chance to build momentum. Multilateral aid organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank should seize the opportunity to provide more aid to Venezuela. It is essential that these organizations are not affiliated in any way with Western political forces, especially the United States. But it is even more critical that organizations act now.
According to a 2019 report from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, nearly half of Venezuela’s poor have only recently fallen into this situation. Lifting families out of poverty over time is considerably more difficult as many begin to sell off their productive assets and let their children drop out of school. This can lead to a vicious cycle. Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian setback must be halted before Western forces can hope to foster long-term political stability. The easing of sanctions can do this, but the relief must first come from non-political sources in order to build confidence. Otherwise, negotiations will proceed with caution. Meanwhile, millions of Venezuelans will continue to suffer.