Photo: Sofía Jaimes Barreto

The Humanitarian Agreement Between Maduro’s Regime and the National Assembly, Explained

Chavismo's Ministry of Health and the National Assembly’s public health advisor signed an agreement with PAHO to handle the pandemic in Venezuela. What does it mean—and how is it even possible?

What’s the agreement about?

The agreement is a mutual cooperation plan between Nicolás Maduro’s regime and the legitimate National Assembly, led by caretaker President Juan Guaidó, and the “administrative and technical support” of Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to face the coronavirus pandemic. According to the document, signed by Maduro’s Health Minister Carlos Alvarado; National Assembly Health Advisor Julio Castro, and the PAHO representative for Venezuela, Gerardo De Cosio, the agreement involves a joint working plan on the following points exclusively:

  • Detection of active cases of COVID-19 by laboratory diagnosis.
  • Timely and appropriate treatment of confirmed cases.
  • Supervised isolation of symptomatic cases and quarantine of people who were in contact confirmed cases.
  • Protection of health personnel.
  • Infection prevention and infection control in health centers.
  • Epidemiological surveillance, data analysis and reporting.
  • Communication of risk to the population to take preventive measures.

Does this mean a political alliance between Maduro’s regime and the National Assembly?

No. It’s just an agreement that comes from a precise and important need to tackle the pandemic.

The complex humanitarian emergency forces the parties to join forces in favor of citizenship and it combines two important points: the power of Maduro’s regime to manage the state de facto, despite its legitimacy; and the legitimacy of the National Assembly and its international recognition (democracies all around the world, the OAS, the UN and the EU), support of NGOs and power of attorney to manage economic resources of the state abroad. In the agreement, it isn’t specified if the funds that are mentioned in the statement by the National Communications Center of June 2nd , will be used or not. Remember the regime has no access to these resources because he isn’t broadly recognized as the legitimate government abroad. 

But in no way does this mean an alliance or a political ceasefire. Indeed, just a day after the signature, June 2nd, Maduro’s regime raided the home of José Ignacio Hernández’s parents. He’s the special attorney general appointed by Guaidó. The regime also raided Ricardo Villasmil’s house, the president of the ad hoc commission of the Central Bank of Venezuela.

Does this agreement mean both groups legally recognize each other?

This part isn’t clear. On one hand, Maduro’s regime, through its Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), is still recognizing former opposition deputy Luis Parra as the speaker of the National Assembly, after the fraudulent election of the new board of authorities in January, recently ratified by the Constitutional Chamber of the TSJ according to decision Nº 0065-2020 on May 26th. Moreover, the dictatorship’s narrative has been cautious about naming its counterpart on the agreement: Maduro’s Foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, called them “a part of the opposition G4” and the following day, he openly called them “the advisory team of the National Assembly”

On the other hand, Guaidó’s government is still calling Maduro’s regime a “dictatorship”, according to the National Communications Center statement on the agreement.

Who supports this agreement?

The PAHO, that also works as the World Health Organization (WHO) regional office for the Americas. WHO is the institution in charge of the health promotion and protection policy of the UN. Therefore, we could say that this agreement has the support of the UN.

This is reinforced by the recent statement of the spokesperson for UN Secretary General António Guterres, who celebrated the agreement and encouraged the signatories to comply, in accordance with humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

The EU also endorses the pact, evidenced by the statement of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, who also said that “dialogue between the parties is essential to advance in the political process and assist the Venezuelan people.” In this context, the EU took the chance to reject the decision of the TSJ that tried to endorse Parra as head of the AN and ratifies its recognition of Guaidó as caretaker president of Venezuela and the National Assembly as the only one legitimate power in the country.

The agreement is endorsed by more than 100 Venezuelan human rights NGOs, which had been lobbying for the need to join efforts, both from the Maduro’s regime and the National Assembly, to attend to the complex humanitarian emergency in the country during the pandemic.

Who’s in charge of managing resources?

It isn’t explicitly mentioned in the document, although the Guaidó’s commissioner for Foreign Affairs, Isadora Zubillaga, tweeted the resources “will be managed directly by international organizations, including the money that we have managed to preserve from being stolen by the Maduro dictatorship. The funds go to frontline doctors, first responders and health workers.”

Moreover, a statement by NGO Provea specifies the parties agreed to “searching financial resources and the strengthening of the country’s response capabilities to serve the population and protect health personnel against the pandemic.”

Did we need this agreement?

Absolutely. This is such an important agreement because, as explained by the representative of the NGOs Acción Solidaria, Codevida and Civilis DDHH, Feliciano Reyna, the measure came at a critical moment, when the number of COVID-19 cases are exponentially increasing in Latin America. Although the rebound in Venezuela is slower than the rest of the region, the situation in the country is critical due to its complex humanitarian emergency. Malnutrition (whether it’s caused by shortages, lack of production, import deficits or high costs), shortage of medicines, vaccines and medical equipment in the public and private health networks, and lack of access to water make it even more difficult to fight the pandemic. 

In addition, the national political crisis complicates efficiently managing the resources to tackle the emergency and the result calls for urgent action to prevent the upsurge of cases. That’s why this agreement is so important. 

Ramsés Ulises Siverio

Journalist, professor and editor based in Guayana. Finalist of the Gabriel García Márquez Award of the FNPI (2016), together with the Correo del Caroní team, for the coverage of the "Masacre de Tumeremo" case.