Venezuela, Opposition Talks Face Long Odds

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Renewed talks between the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and representatives from the opposition faction are set to kick off in Mexico on Aug. 13, but a material change in their long-running political stalemate appears unlikely. Analysts see Maduro's motive for engaging in the talks as a show of good faith in an attempt to get the crippling sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the US lifted or eased. Meanwhile, the opposition, led by Juan Guaido, is seeking more measures to ensure the integrity and transparency of elections in the nation as well as humanitarian relief -- particularly obtaining more Covid-19 vaccines -- and the release of political prisoners. The US sanctions are aimed at crippling Venezuela's oil industry, but have also exacerbated the severe economic and humanitarian crises in the country (OD Jun.17'21). The talks could produce some desirable partial agreements “related to vaccinations and humanitarian aid, where the only winners are the Venezuelan people,” economist and former Petroleos de Venezuela ad hoc board member Alejandro Grisanti told Energy Intelligence. However, he warned that the talks could "linger for months or even years," or be cut short if it becomes clear that an agreement will not be reached. Other analysts did not hold out much hope for the talks to inspire significant changes. Maduro has become politically stronger after surviving various attempts to topple his government, while the Guaido opposition has lost much of its international and internal support. However, Maduro still appears unlikely to achieve much relief, as the administration of US President Joe Biden has so far signaled its intent to maintain the sanctions regime put in place by the former Trump administration (OD Jul.7'21). “What cannot be achieved from this negotiation in the short term is Maduro’s departure, a substantial easing of sanctions, or international recognition of the Maduro government,” Luis Vicente Leon, president of Caracas-based polling company Datanalisis, said on social media (OD Jul.13'21). On the other side, the opposition's failed attempt to oust Maduro by courting US support has left them weakened and with limited leverage. “Over time, the opposition’s vocal advocacy of US economic sanctions has become a political liability, as most Venezuelans have suffered enormous deprivation, while the sanctions have failed to make discernible progress in either ending or easing Chavista rule,” Abraham F. Lowenthal, the founding director of the Wilson Center's Latin American Program, recently wrote. Pietro Pitts, Houston

Elections, Security Risk , Sanctions
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