Thursday, May 22, 2014

Venezuela: Tipping Point

Source: International Crisis Group

Failure to resolve the Venezuelan crisis could plunge the country into yet more violence, leaving it unable to address soaring criminality and economic decline and exposing the inability of regional inter-governmental bodies to manage the continent’s conflicts. 

In its latest briefing, Venezuela: Tipping Point, the International Crisis Group examines Venezuela’s increasingly dangerous political polarisation and efforts to overcome it. The government and its supporters believe the opposition wishes to subvert democratic processes, reverse social gains and restore foreign domination of the country’s energy reserves; the opposition believes the government’s incompetence and its authoritarian socialist project are leading a potentially wealthy country into ruin. Neither side can win this fight nor govern alone. Outside facilitation, however difficult, provides the best hope for a resolution.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
  • Venezuela reached a tipping point in February: the violence, which has cost at least 42 lives and produced scores of human rights violations and hundreds of arbitrary detentions, has made finding a solution both more urgent and more complex.
  • Political confrontation between the government and its opponents, exacerbated by violence – particularly by members of the security services and the pro-government armed groups known as “colectivos” – has left Venezuelans deeply divided and unable to address grave problems of criminality and precipitous economic decline. Neither the government, struggling to replicate Ch├ívez’s charisma and ruling by confrontation, nor the opposition, united in goals but divided in strategy, can provide sufficient answers by themselves to these challenges.
  • Venezuela’s polarisation reverberates beyond its borders. It has revealed the shortcomings of regional institutions in dealing with political crises in the neighbourhood. A failure to contain and resolve this crisis will have lasting effects in the region and will seriously harm the prestige of established inter-American and Latin American systems.
  • To be successful, negotiations between the government and the opposition, currently facilitated by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Vatican, must address the key factors that led to the crisis. All sides concerned should also consider bringing a UN technical mission to provide support.
  • To revive the dialogue if it stalls and to monitor agreements, all sides should consider the appointment of an international facilitator, possibly from the UN system, in conjunction with UNASUR members and the Vatican.
“The international community must provide support to de-escalate violence and maintain a consistent line on restoration of the rule of law and respect for human rights” says Javier Ciurlizza, Latin America Program Director. “The crisis in Venezuela cannot be managed without external help”.