Keys to the impasse in the Venezuelan negotiation

Since 2014, at least five negotiation processes have been carried out with some form of international intermediation between the Chavista government and the Venezuelan opposition forces.

The last of the meetings took place in Mexico City with the mediation of Norway. It began in August and abruptly ended in October when Chavismo decided to withdraw from the table, as a result of the apprehension of Alex Saab, an alleged front man of Nicolás Maduro who wanted to be incorporated into the process as a diplomat.

This reaction of the government is not merely temporary, but comes from the structure of its field of negotiation delimited by the following margins.

On the one hand, Chavismo has incentives to dialogue with an opposition that demands the reinstatement of democracy, since they know well that the socioeconomic situation they have generated is unsustainable and they seek guarantees for their movement to survive out of power.

On the other hand, the Chavista staff has a strong aversion to losing power, as a series of reprisals from the United States weigh on them that violate their most fundamental interests. Therefore, the deactivation of sanctions is your red line to proceed with concessions.

In this regard, one of the main proposals in the 2019 Oslo-Barbados negotiations was to hand over the government to a Council of State controlled by both sides and whose mission was to organize credible elections. Due to the aforementioned, Chavismo placed as an inalienable demand the cancellation of the sanctions of the North Americans. In the Mexico City negotiation there was a certain consensus of the parties on this.

And it is that in situations like this, international mediation scholars recommend that the mediator mitigate the threats that hinder the construction of agreements. The problem is that it is not Norway but the United States that has such resources.

Given this, it becomes clear that the structural failure in the Venezuelan negotiations lies in the fact that the actor with the ability to overcome the impasse, refuses not only to negotiate but to relax his position contained in the Framework for a Peaceful Democratic Transition. Document in which they condition the deactivation of sanctions in exchange for the voluntary departure from Chavismo.

In this regard, the United States has active a series of sanctions aimed at limiting the international financing of the Venezuelan state and the commercial operations of PDVSA. As well as a series of reprisals against the government leadership that involve the freezing of personal accounts, visa restrictions, accusations of terrorism, drug trafficking and violation of human rights.

Faced with the impasse, the tough factions of each of the parties have been strengthened and have put into practice alternative routes to negotiation that they perceive as superior, thereby fueling a spiral of mutual mistrust.

Some opposition factions have ventured along violent routes such as the Gideon operation in 2020. Others have participated in alternate negotiations, such as the Mesita, in which some groups endorsed the 2020 legislative elections in exchange for minimal concessions.

Facts like this have reinforced the perception that it is a matter of time to fracture the opposition. In turn, this has resulted in attitudes of sabotage and procrastination on the part of the government, which further deepens the distrust of both the opposition and the United States about the true intentions of the Venezuelan government.

In this regard, in August 2021 the US government reaffirmed that the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration would be maintained as a resource to keep Chavismo at the negotiating table.

Decision taken from a rationality in which, it must be said, the suffering of the Venezuelan people is a marginal variable in the calculation.

* Internationalist and professor at UPAEP.


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