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Resuming dialogue in Mexico before the 2024 elections

Photo: Twitter/petrogustavo. November 11 at the Elysée Palace, Paris.

Within the framework of the V Forum in Paris, the presidents of Argentina, Colombia, France, and the Norwegian chancellor held a gathering with the government and the opposition of Venezuela with the aim of reactivating the negotiation in Mexico. The meeting took place on November 11 at the Elysée Palace, in which the first three countries acted as promoters under the facilitation of Norway, taking advantage of the new political recomposition of the region after the electoral victories of Gustavo Petro in Colombia, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil and the diplomatic rapprochement between Venezuela and the United States of America.

At the end of the meeting, Gustavo Petro reported that at the table he proposed a lifting of the blockade against the Venezuelan economy, an amnesty for all prisoners for political reasons to be released, and an electoral coexistence pact setting up guarantees for all political factions “in order to the Venezuelan people to decide”[1]. However, other sources indicated that the Colombian president’s proposal would be a “general amnesty” that would make it possible to rebuild political and social understanding in Venezuela.[2]

It is worth remembering that amnesties for serious human rights violations are inadmissible and do not serve to pave the way for peace and democratic stability in any country. Nor can be used as a political instrument to influence judicial processes, such as the one pending before the International Criminal Court, -in which a decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber I at the request of prosecutor Karin A. Khan to resume the investigation into Venezuela is pending -, for crimes against humanity committed by public authorities, at least since 2017[3].

Regardless of both personal and political aspirations, the horizon of these negotiations is the 2024 presidential elections. Regional and European interest in having a legitimate election has grown significantly, not only because of the crisis in Ukraine, which has led to new economic and commercial relations in which Venezuela engages but considering the weakening of the figure of the interim presidency that would end in January 2023. In this geopolitical context, the option for Venezuela to initiate a democratic transition, through which it begins a new relationship with the world, has gained political support, where the eventual return to the inter-American human rights system would be “a progress” of that transition[4].

AlertaVenezuela welcomes the initiatives to relaunch the dialogue in Mexico while insisting that any agreed electoral agenda must have a human rights-based approach and thus use the recommendations from the EU Election Observation Mission and the UN panel of electoral experts, guaranteeing, among other necessary conditions, the right to vote for the more than 4 million Venezuelans authorized abroad[5]. Any initiative that ignores this cannot be understood as a genuine intention for authentic elections and, therefore, cannot start a democratic transition in Venezuela enabling the demands upon the Maduro government to be relaxed.

It is also time for the UN to play an active role in dialogue efforts. As it was deployed in the 2021 electoral process, the UN is called to get involved in this political situation from its highest levels and through the country office to favor that the negotiations in Mexico result in sufficient electoral guarantees, political participation and civil liberties for the population. The United Nations, moreover, could facilitate spaces for social dialogue with other actors, such as civil society, given the proposal of the parties to discuss a possible humanitarian agreement.

It is important that this dialogue process be used as an opportunity by the international community to establish objective indicators of the government’s willingness to allow legitimate elections and a humanitarian response that meets the real needs of the population. This will make it possible to take advantage of the political conjuncture that is opening up to anticipate and boost strategic actions in the event that no substantial concessions are made during the upcoming months.