Photo: El País retrieved

What did Juan Guaidó announce on September 15th, exactly?

The caretaker President issued a statement, confirming the opposition’s withdrawal from the Norway-sponsored talks in Barbados, 40 days after Maduro left, claiming chavismo was leaving because of the new U.S. sanctions. 

What did Maduro’s regime announce on September 16th?

The regime responded to Guaidó with a lie that intends to make it seem like they’re willing to negotiate, but with “the right opposition,” meaning a tailor-made opposition. 

The Rodríguez siblings and Jorge Arreaza said to the diplomatic community and the media, in the Casa Amarilla, that they started a dialogue with the quote-unquote “opposition,” a fake oppo group that’s unsuitable to negotiate anything in anybody’s name: Avanzada Progresista (sans Henry Falcón,) what’s left of MAS, Eduardo Fernández, Claudio Fermín and Cambiemos, the party founded by deputy and former negotiator Timoteo Zambrano—a man who’s very close to José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. 

These are the people that our Political Risk Report mentioned several times as being in the regime’s service as an alleged opposition, the same people who backed the fraudulent presidential election of 2018 (the very one that made Maduro illegitimate as of January 10th, 2019.) Pastor Bertucci was the only one missing, along with Diosdado Cabello’s new middleman, Leocenis García, but it wouldn’t be unexpected if the latter joins the scene if, for example, the regime announces new elections that, without guarantees and with handpicked opponents, would be as illegal as the 2018 elections. This is a sequel to that illegitimate process: same pattern, same crew. 

The key moment of the announcement was when Zambrano revealed that, after a months-long debate, they reached an agreement with chavismo on three key aspects: 

  1. The immediate return of the PSUV faction to the National Assembly; 
  2. The appointment of a new National Electoral Council, CNE; 
  3. “Liberty for those deprived of it,” note the euphemism. 

He didn’t say anything about dissolving the national constituent assembly, or anything that could be taken as the dictatorship recoiling. 

Jorge Rodríguez further explained Zambrano’s words, adding a couple of points: one about recovering the Esequibo and another that channels the freedom for political prisoners into a “maybe,” if the regime-owned Truth Commission determines they deserve it. 

Is the Venezuelan opposition divided?

No. 

The Venezuelan opposition has always had very strong internal tensions. Sometimes its centripetal force is larger and coalitions like Coordinadora Democrática, MUD and now the G4 are formed, a not-that-solid alliance of four major parties in the National Assembly. Sometimes, especially after a failed attempt to take power, the centrifugal force wins and the divisions take over until the next wave of hope. 

But this time, fragmentation comes from outside the opposition: the Venezuelan opposition is entrenched in the National Assembly (and people in academia, workers’ unions, international community and NGOs,) and they’re pressured to dismantle with several simultaneous acts of sabotage and persecution. Internal tensions intensify as months go by and Maduro is still there. 

But the individuals who showed up with the regime in this so-called “national dialogue” have no influence in the AN, or in the polls, or on the street. They only show up to criticize the G4 and agree with several of the regime’s positions (like a rejection of sanctions.)

To informed observers, it’s clear that this is a charade opposition playing for the dictatorship. It will serve as an example of (fake) coexistence for the regime’s propaganda and its allies, an opposition that means no threat to the regime. 

What’s the relevance of the regime’s announcement on September 16th?

The most important aspect concerns the composition of the National Assembly: looks like the regime dropped the idea of dissolving Parliament and it wants to reoccupy it, now that it forced to exile or jailed 67 deputies, out of 112 opposition lawmakers elected by the people. But if the PSUV deputies go back, they still lack the majority to, for example, elect heads of public powers or a new National Electoral Council. 

Where do this alleged opposition stands now?

People like Claudio Fermín or Eduardo Fernández are there to conquer small spaces of influence, always under the dictatorship’s wing, never against it. Regarding Henry Falcón’s Avanzada Progresista, it has always tried to present itself as the third alternative, in the center, attracting chavistas and opposition, but especially the indifferent, feeding off from former chavistas (like Falcón himself) and opposition people who rathers not support the G4 or Guaidó. 

There’s someone else who can be tied to this project, economist Francisco Rodríguez, economy advisor for the AN during its first years of chavista majority and Falcón’s campaign chief for the illegitimate 2018 election. A couple of days ago, he announced his resignation at financial firm Torino Capital (where they dealt with the interests of several Venezuelan bond debt holders,) to commit himself “to finding solutions to the humanitarian crisis.” Rodríguez has been promoting an oil-for-food exchange program as an alternative to international sanctions, through which the dictatorship would be committed to alleviating shortages in exchange for oil. By the way, he said himself, right after the announcement of the “national dialogue,” that this couldn’t happen without support from other factions of the opposition and the U.S. government. 

Where does that leaves Guaidó and the G4?

It depends on what their international allies do. 

Although permanently sieged in Venezuela, Guaidó still has his legitimacy as caretaker President and, in the words of Francisco Rodríguez, oil can’t be moved without him. He reacted to the “national dialogue” by saying that in Barbados they proposed a transition that included the Armed Forces and separated Maduro and Guaidó from power. What we know from our Political Risk Report is that the opposition did propose elections without Guaidó, but the proposal didn’t move further because Maduro never offered guarantees and Diosdado Cabello always opposed the idea of dissolving the ANC. 

This new move will most likely be endorsed by Cuba, Russia, Nicaragua and Bolivia, and in more discrete ways by certain spokespeople o governments in the region like Mexico and Uruguay. But the ambassadors who went to Casa Amarilla left the room as soon as they saw what it was all about. This won’t make the U.S. suspend its sanctions, nor will it make Michelle Bachelet contradict her report about human rights in the country, and Colombia won’t forget about the threat of having FARC and ELN members in Venezuela. 

How is the common citizen affected by this?

There are no reasons to think that this will generate changes in the status quo, unless an unexpected factor arises, like a military uprising or an impasse related to the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela. What was announced as an agreement has no way to turn into real elections that would separate Maduro from power. You can see it as an agreement to normalize the dictatorship. How much it’ll achieve, remains to be seen. 

In sum, does this brings any hope for change?

None of this makes us think that the conditions behind hyperinflation and the humanitarian emergency are going to improve, and we doubt that this will add pressure towards the one thing that can actually threaten the regime’s grip on the nation: the cease of military support for Maduro.

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