World

Capitulation Will Only Embolden the Maduro Regime

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro addresses the media from the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, August 16, 2021. (Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/Reuters)
Bringing an end to the dictatorship cannot wait until 2024.

The illegitimate Maduro regime and the opposition coalition have launched negotiations in Mexico to attempt to relieve human suffering and bring democracy back to Venezuela.

However, after the first round of negotiations, Maduro is succeeding in seeking legitimacy and money.

President John F. Kennedy once said, “We cannot negotiate with people who say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.”

With that in mind, Maduro is using individuals in the political parties he co-opted through the upcoming regional and local elections in November to attempt to legitimize his regime and its corrupt National Council of Elections (CNE).

For years, the international community has not recognized previous fraudulent elections partly because the CNE could not operate free and fair elections. It is not credible, and regime officials have faced sanctions for undermining the electoral process.

In December 2020, the United States, the European Union, and nearly 60 countries rejected Maduro’s so-called legislative elections. Then, Maduro appointed new CNE members to continue undermining democratic principles. Surprisingly, the European Union and Spain supported this farce while the U.S. took a neutral approach.

However, Senators Bob Menendez and Dick Durbin rightly opposed Maduro’s action because the new CNE would “impede free and fair elections by installing a majority of regime loyalists to an electoral commission that lacks the necessary credibility from its inception.”

It is baffling that the opposition is demanding electoral conditions yet agreed to participate in the November local elections without any pre-conditions before the negotiations in Mexico began.

Then, the opposition announced progress on COVID-19 vaccines but shockingly failed to mention elections in the statement. The people of Venezuela need urgent and critical access to vaccines, but the agreement is silent on implementation. Venezuelans need unrestricted flow of all humanitarian assistance, including vaccines, but through neutral channels only.

The opposition also indicated a willingness to discuss access to funds in multilateral organizations with Maduro. This is simply dangerous and irresponsible. The goal of the international sanctions against Maduro and his cronies is to deny funds to the regime, not provide them access.

The Maduro dictatorship uses money to undermine and corrupt Venezuelan institutions, and some members of the opposition are potentially no exception. Maduro has divided the opposition by threatening, arresting, bribing, and harassing them in order to eliminate Juan Guaido or any other future opposition leader.

Some individuals of the opposition may be guilty of malfeasance, but they are not alone. The international community, which has usually kept a hard line on Venezuela, has neglected its responsibilities by failing to apply pressure against Maduro in recent months, which weakens the opposition at the negotiating table.

In the meantime, Venezuelans continue to suffer. Even though the migration crisis began around 2013-2014, it was not until 2018, when Ambassador Mark Green became administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, that assistance arrived for Venezuelans and communities hosting them. By the end of the previous administration, the U.S. had provided more than $1.2 billion in humanitarian and development assistance. This assistance must continue. The U.S. should also convene a donors’ conference for the largest humanitarian crisis in the world to help those inside Venezuela and their allies, such as Colombia, who are bearing the brunt of those fleeing Maduro’s tyranny.

With the help of Russia, China, Turkey, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua, Maduro is holding hundreds of political prisoners and runs a criminal drug-trafficking enterprise. To achieve freedom in Venezuela, the international community should raise the pressure against these regimes so that they pay a price for supporting Maduro.

Opposition party participation in the November elections will have severe consequences, and I predict that in January 2022, the United States will no longer recognize Juan Guaido or any other opposition leader as the interim president.

The international community cannot sit idly by and be duped by these irresponsible negotiations which will send a negative signal to other authoritarians, such as those in Nicaragua and Cuba.

Regardless of the November elections outcomes, Maduro is still illegitimate and should not be recognized by the U.S. or our allies. One election by itself does not constitute a democracy. Attaining a citizen-responsive democracy while respecting human rights, the rule of law, transparency, and the respect for institutions is needed for Venezuelans to prosper.

The U.S. should not lift any sanctions, should oppose Maduro’s diesel swap plans, and should insist that all political prisoners be released. Venezuelans desire an agreement for presidential elections, electoral reforms, and a neutral and unbiased CNE to truly accomplish verifiable free, fair, and transparent elections with international observers.

While dialogues can be well intended, they must not indirectly embolden the oppressor evidenced by the recent absurd demand from the regime to add Alex Saab, who faces U.S. charges on money laundering, to the negotiations in Mexico. The opposition risks losing the support of the Venezuelan people if it continues to capitulate to Maduro. If this level of recklessness continues, we should stop pretending that the opposition is united and abandon this fake unity agreement with those individuals inside the opposition political parties that have been compromised for the sake of all Venezuelans.

Bringing an end to the dictatorship cannot wait until 2024. Venezuelans are yearning for the opposition to turn it around in these next rounds of negotiations and find a path to ultimately address the root cause of the problem: Maduro’s tyranny.

Eddy Acevedo is Chief of Staff and Senior Adviser to Ambassador Mark Green, President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He formerly was the National Security Adviser at the U.S. Agency for International Development and Senior Foreign Policy Advisor for former representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect an official position of the Wilson Center.

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