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An agreed transition for Venezuela

To date, all efforts to democratically normalize Venezuela have pursued free and equal elections. All attempts have failed. Right now, the negotiations in Mexico seek to ensure these conditions in the next presidential elections in 2024. All hopes are pinned on these elections as a new and perhaps last chance for a united opposition to defeat Maduro. Vain hope, because the opposition is not united and it is very unlikely that it will present a single candidate and because, if it were, Chavismo would maneuver before its defeat to avoid it.

I was in Caracas at the end of July explaining the Spanish democratic transition and I spoke with everyone: the government, the opposition, businessmen, financial sectors, energy experts, civic forums, etc. I am very pessimistic. Venezuela has been in the Chavista revolution for 20 years and that misnamed revolution has been a total failure. It is not the international sanctions that have caused the country’s social disaster, but a demagogic and short-term management, an old and inefficient leftism loaded with vindictive sectarianism towards the old political and economic structures of the past.

A revolution would have been to use the immense public resources of that country to modernize its productive apparatus, to form human capital, improve its productivity with physical and technological infrastructures, modernize its education and health… ultimately build a welfare state on a solid and competitive economy. Today it could be the first country in Latin America for income per capita and in human development. Of course, the sanctions of recent years have ruined him, but they are not to blame for the rent per capita has fallen from 11,000 dollars to 4,000 in less than 10 years, that its GDP has been reduced by 75%, that more than five million of its citizens have emigrated, that it has lost 40% of its human capital and the deterioration suffered by each and every one of the country’s public services.

This reality is hidden under a totalitarian political regime that has constructed a progressive narrative mythologizing its initial popular measures (bread for today and hunger for tomorrow) and organizing a very powerful socio-political apparatus in the most humble areas of the country, so that support of that “revolution” maintains a fairly stable 20% electoral floor.

The opposition is fragmented and divided. Too many parties, too many leaders (or who pretend to be) and seriously confronted for having participated or not in the previous electoral processes. The institutional situation is diabolical, because the international community does not recognize either the president elected in 2018 or the Legislative Assembly elected in 2020, due to the lack of electoral guarantees in both cases. The United States, in turn, uses the Venezuelan financial funds frozen in its country to finance the totally symbolic operation of the Legislative Assembly elected in 2015 and the acting government of Juan Guaido.

The idea that the electoral democratic path is the only way to change things is unanimous. Other ways and other strategies have failed. There is a general conviction throughout the opposition that the electoral boycott has not worked and has facilitated the electoral victory of the Government. In fact, in the elections for governors and mayors of November 2021, everyone participated, and the Government won in 18 of the 23 states and in 210 mayoralties out of 335. If the opposition had been united, it would have won in 15 of the 18 states that lost.

The two unknowns at the moment are the negotiations in Mexico (currently suspended) on the electoral conditions of 2024 and the primary procedure to choose a single opposition candidate. Over both there are serious clouds. But, even if both were resolved favorably, the question arises as to whether Chavismo would accept losing power. There are enough reasons and previous experiences to doubt it. But the fact is that, in addition, it is completely illusory to believe that an opposition candidate can govern a country totally colonized by Chavismo. Public administration, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, electoral control, the judiciary, the media, the Armed Forces, the police and the entire political apparatus of the State are in the hands of a party that has destroyed the separation of powers and adds influence over the business world under the rule of “to friends, everything and to enemies, the law”. An economic model more similar to the Russian than the Chinese. It is a chimera to think that this structure can be dismantled and a country governed in these conditions, with a Legislative Assembly dominated by Chavismo in 80% of its representatives.

That is why the need to guide the Venezuelan transition towards other objectives that give guarantees to each other of political and personal survival and that allow a long period of coexistence in the management of the economic and social solution to the human crisis that it suffers the country. The conditions of this transition pact are to coincide the legislative elections with the presidential ones in 2024 and elect a president for a coalition government with the main forces elected in the Assembly. Of course, we are talking about fair and equal elections. That government would have international support for an economic stabilization plan together with international financial institutions and to recover oil production that would allow the country’s public accounts to be cleaned up, economic activity to recover, public health and education services to be provided, and a return to Venezuela to be attracted. of his recent exile.

Is a pact possible in that direction? In my opinion, it is the only possible pact. There are sectors in the Government and in Chavismo openly willing to agree on a reconciled solution to an unsustainable political, economic and social situation. Chavismo is not defeated, but its political project is finished and the country is ruined. The international community can unify its strategy in this direction because the sanctions and the boycott have reached a ceiling in their effectiveness and because Venezuela has become an important piece on the international board.

Venezuela matters because of the immense volume of its human crisis and because of its geopolitical influence in the region. But, in addition, Venezuela has become a key player in the energy supply for Europe. It is the world’s largest oil reserve and the eighth largest gas reserve. Their supply to Europe would be greatly beneficial to them and to us. The United States is already talking to Maduro about it. In fact, a North American delegation visited Miraflores in June, leaving the Mexican talks in a very bad place.

Spain and the European Union should study their mediation in this direction. Many interlocutors expressed to me their desire to see Spain and the European Union with a more active role, more of their own, not so attached to the United States and less influenced by the opposition in exile. On the other hand, the political changes produced in the countries of the region —Colombia, Chile— can help in the indicated direction. It is more than likely that they will see with very good eyes an agreed solution of a transitional government between Chavismo and the opposition. Broad business, financial and energy sectors also see this alternative as the best solution. They do not dare to openly raise it, but their suggestions see the agreed transition as the most pragmatic and viable path.

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Source: EL PAIS

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