Since the April 14th presidential elections, Venezuela has been in a state of political paralysis not seen since 2002-2003. The narrow victory by President Nicolas Maduro over Henrique Capriles has led to extreme polarization – Capriles has challenged the election in Courts and has called Maduro’s government illegitimate, while Maduro has blamed Capriles for the post-election violence in the country, and threatened him with incarceration. Fighting has occurred within the National Assembly, in which members of the opposition were attacked by officialist members.
The opposition’s continuous resistance and a recent recording that discusses deep divisions with the officialist camp have caused major problems for the government. Similarly, the economic situation provides another obstacle. The Bolivar’s devaluation and the slowdown of economic growth have continued and even worsened with massive shortages of basic goods. In fact, early last week the National Assembly approved a $79 million credit to import toilet paper, toothpaste, and soap. Maduro and the government claim that the the shortage is a conspiracy by the opposition, while the opposition has blamed price controls on goods for the imbalances and the shortages. Similarly citizen security continues to be a to be a problem, escalating to the point where Maduro has sent the Army into the streets to fight insecurity.
What will happen next is hard to say. Capriles and the opposition have mounted a relatively successful resistance, although it near impossible to see the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo de Justicia) annulling the election and calling for new ones given its pro-officialist stance. A clear example is the recent auditing by the Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral – CNE). The CNE agreed to audit some of the electoral boxes, presumably due to pressure put on Maduro by the Colombian and Brazilian governments. Despite this, the CNE has stated that there were minor errors and that the electoral result stands.
Similarly, the conflict-like stance by Maduro and the officialists will not continue. Relaxation is already being seen, with Diosdado Cabello, the president of the National Assembly, giving opposition members of the Assembly the right to speak once again. Similarly, during an interview in Brasilia, Maduro stated that he was willing to open dialogue with Capriles.
Internationally, Latin America has continued its support for Maduro, although the calls for dialogue have increased. As previously stated, Colombia and Brazil have played a role in pressuring Maduro in ending his aggressive stance. In another move to end the political crisis, Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said that Brazil will be hiring 6,000 doctors from Cuba to improve health services deep inside Brazilian territory. This can be seen as a move by Brazil to provide Raul Castro with a source of revenue and in return to allow flexibility within Venezuela. Finally, in a rare move, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua has said that the government is ready to resume diplomatic relations at the highest level (ambassador) with the United States.
All of this suggests that dialogue between the officialists and the opposition is possible. Maduro and Capriles could meet and end the current crisis. Although this is what Venezuela is in need of, there must be the political will to compromise. Until then, the country will remain in a state of political paralysis and economic recession.