As the regime’s faux parliamentary election takes place, both sides of the political conflict are focused on preparing for next year and new rounds of negotiations. Both the parliamentary election and the opposition’s “referendum” will result in new bodies with weak claims to legitimacy: a new National Assembly (AN) elected without most of the opposition taking part in elections that won’t be recognized by most countries in the continent and in Europe; and an opposition organization, as of yet undefined, that will be a continuation of the previous AN, and a continuation of the caretaker government. Unprecedented in Venezuela, and probably anywhere else. While the legitimacy of these bodies might be found lacking, they’ll nonetheless secure for each side a seat at the table in next year’s inevitable negotiations between the government and the opposition. As we have explained before, the government will demand the new AN gets a seat at the table in these negotiations, hoping to dilute the opposition’s role in two different oppositions—the “sensible” one, and the “violent” one.
As we report in our latest Political Risk Report, both sides are moving to build leverage for these negotiations. For the government, building leverage means—as in previous negotiations—persecuting opposition leaders, putting pressure on them and their families, and arresting key players as well as low and mid-level activists, to be used later as bargaining chips and to be released as “goodwill gestures”. We expect the government to move quickly to build leverage before Joe Biden is sworn in, and start afresh with the new U.S. administration. In essence, it’s about building tomorrow’s status quo, today. A status quo in which the government has the opposition against the ropes. The government can’t move against the opposition at the same time they’re asking Biden for talks, as it will destroy any mirage of them wanting a peaceful resolution. So they must act now.
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