For Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro (Nicolás Maduro), the November regional election vote is secondary because the government wants to make concessions to accept international sanctions relief.
Maduro’s re-election in 2018 has never been recognized by domestic opposition parties or about 60 other countries including the European Union and the United States.
Since then, Washington has in particular increased its sanctions on the country and its ruling regime, putting tremendous pressure on a country that has been in recession for eight years and whose GDP has shrunk by 80% since 2014.
Maduro promised that if his opponent wins the race for mayor and governor, he will respect the result and end the “protector” system, that is, he appoints loyalists in the opposition jurisdiction to weaken the power of competitors. .
He hopes that such a guarantee will ease the economic sanctions that are hanging over the country.
At the same time, Brussels and Washington are “committed to supporting political negotiations to end Venezuela’s nightmare,” Michael Schiffer, chairman of the Dialogue of the Americas, told AFP.
“Not only did the’maximum pressure’ strategy against Maduro failed, it was counterproductive and actually helped strengthen Venezuela’s authoritarian regime,” Schiffer said.
“This does not mean that the United States is about to lift severe sanctions now, but instead focuses on using them as negotiation tools to create conditions for free and fair elections.”
Strangled by sanctions including the oil embargo, Maduro demanded “immediate lifting” to begin negotiations.
“The Embryo of Negotiation”
Luis Vicente Leon, president of Datanalisis, a polling agency, said that some sectors of the international community are beginning to look forward to the normalization of relations with Maduro.
On June 25, the European Union, the United States and Canada issued a statement stating that they would be willing to “review” the sanctions if the negotiations for a “credible” election make progress.
“This is the prototype of the negotiation process,” Vicente Leon said.
Several diplomatic sources told AFP that such negotiations will soon begin in Mexico.
Maduro even invited the European Union to observe the November 21 elections. The European Election Commission will arrive in Caracas on Tuesday.
An EU diplomatic source said: “This is an exploratory task to see if we can observe the election in a credible way.”
“If it weren’t, we wouldn’t come. We don’t want to verify elections that are not worthwhile.”
For the opposition, the question is whether to boycott in November like the 2018 presidential elections and the 2020 legislative elections.
According to Datanalisis, the opposition leader Juan Guido also has many problems. He is recognized by the European Union, the United States and about 60 countries as the acting president of Venezuela, but his approval rate in Venezuela has dropped to 15%.
“It is very important to reach a political agreement on the deep crisis that Venezuela is going through. This needs to be done wisely,” Guaidó said last week.
He knows that if he cannot regain some of the momentum of 2019, his political shelf life will be short.
But Guaido warned that, given “he suddenly stated that he would respect the Constitution”, the opposition should remain skeptical of Maduro’s proposal.
Democracy opens the door?
Maduro continued to blow the cold wind on Friday (July 2), claiming that the CIA and the US military were planning to assassinate him.
He asked whether Biden authorized the assassination attempt.
In a letter on Monday, Biden affirmed his support for Guaido and stated that the opposition leader is guiding his country “through a peaceful democratic transition of power.”
But Maduro has already shown some signs of opening the door to a more democratic process.
Last week, the National Election Commission (CNE) lifted its three-year ban on the Democratic Unity Form (MUD)-the opposition coalition won the 2015 parliamentary elections, breaking the 15-year hegemony of the Maduro Socialist Group .
And appointed a new CNE leadership, including members connected to the opposition, although the ruling party maintains a majority in the institution.
Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, who led the MUD in 2009-14, told AFP that Maduro is “making an open stance to reduce his lack of credibility”.
But Benigno Alarcon, head of political studies at the Catholic University of Andres Bello, said that the ruling regime “will (only) make concessions in areas where it believes the least damage to its control of power”.
On the other hand, NGO activists criticizing military operations on the border between Venezuela and Colombia were charged with “treason, terrorism and incitement to hatred” on Saturday.
“There is still a long way to go to normalize,” said EU diplomatic sources.