Venezuelan opposition leader Freddy Guevara has twice lost his independence at the hands of Nicolás Maduro’s regime, but he now sees a “window of opportunity” to hold free and fair elections.
why it matters: Guevara and other opposition representatives have been in talks with Maduro government officials in Mexico since September. The opposition is pressing for a free presidential election, while Maduro’s side wants sanctions relief and access to Venezuelan assets abroad.
- Some of those assets are frozen, while others are held by the government of Juan Guaidó, whom the US recognizes as Venezuela’s legitimate interim leader.
what is he saying: The last four sets of talks with Maduro since 2014 have collapsed, and the opposition “cannot guarantee [the current talks] Not going to fail,” Guevara told Nerdshala in an interview.
- yes but: “We are convinced that we … need to try now as we see a window of opportunity.”
- “We believe they need to be and we need to try, with good faith and effort, but without naivety,” said Guevara, who was released from prison in August to take part in the talks.
state of play: Negotiations mediated by Norway have already come to fruition agreements On humanitarian issues such as child nutrition programs and pandemic response. Now, Guevara says, “main topics” will be on the table.
- The opposition is specifically asking for the next presidential election, which is not scheduled until 2024, to be “as soon as possible”, Guevara says, since the results of the 2018 election, which Maduro won, were held by the opposition. was not recognized, the US and most western countries.
- They are calling for reform of the National Electoral Council – controlled entirely by the Maduro regime and which has overseen several fraudulent elections – and for a new judicial system with independence from Maduro.
- Maduro and his top lieutenants are under international sanctions, which they hope will be lifted. They also want the opposition to recognize the government as legitimate, and use foreign money.
Guevara now says It’s time for talks, while Maduro is under strong international pressure – including a US indictment on drug trafficking charges and allegations of crimes against humanity.
- Between the lines: The opposition has tried to generate new international momentum against Maduro after a nearly three-year standoff, but Venezuela has become a relatively low priority in Washington, and support for Guaidó in Europe has faltered.
Backstory: Guevara was Arrested in July and charged with “terrorism” and “treason” among other charges. A month later he was released to replace Guaidó’s ambassador to the US, Carlos Vecchio, at the negotiating table.
- Maduro’s representatives opposed Vecchio’s involvement, but the opposition stated that Vecchio would only withdraw if Guevara was freed from imprisonment and allowed to take his place.
- Facing the threat of arrest by the government, Guevara first spent three years inside the Chilean embassy.
During this, The opposition plans to participate in state and local elections in November, three years after boycotting all elections.
- Guevara argued that, because these were not federal elections, they would not compromise the opposition’s basic position that the Maduro regime was illegitimate.
- He said the opposition believes the elections will be fraudulent, but believes they provide an opportunity to mobilize the Venezuelan population against Maduro.
what to watch: According to Guevara, the opposition estimates that the talks will last about six months.
go in: The Inside Story of the Failed Rebellion Against Maduro.