Even though the real numbers were unknown, the Popular Consultation motivated many in the population and thereby showed the citizens’ concern and desire for change. Now it is on the side of the leaders (Guaidó and the NA) to deliver on the promises implicit in the questions, otherwise it will not take long for frustration to begin to manifest itself. The new composition of the opposition will continue its evolution in January. For its part, the regime achieved a practically unicolor National Assembly, creating even more doubts about any potential future negotiations. Meanwhile threats to the regime continue to appear both in the International Criminal Court and in the tragic shipwreck of displaced Venezuelans to Trinidad and Tobago.   On top of this, in the face of a local pandemic spike, CNN defines reality when it headlines The poorest Venezuelans fear hunger, not covid-19.

The popular consultation and its consequences

The polls seem to have been wrong again. These indicated little participation in the Consultation and even if the true number of signatories will never be known (this will not be decisive either), the reality is that a lort of interest was generated by the Popular Consultation on the part of Venezuelan opponents. It shows once again the people’s extraordinary desire for a change of government and their stubbornness in responding to virtually any possibility of expressing their longings for freedom. Of course, it is the political leadership that presents and / or supports the tools for citizens to express themselves. As additional comments, the regime was unable to achieve meaningful participation in the NA elections and was also unable to stop participation in the consultation. Criticisms have been heard of the diaspora’s alleged lack of interest in the Consultation, it would be necessary to highlight a lack of information regarding their proportion in virtual votes and the fact that the physical presence of large agglomerations in pandemic stricken countries are not well seen or mostly even permited.

Now begins the stage after the Consultation, and we shall see what the opposition leadership will do with this new manifestation of support that it obtained from the populace:

  • Until now, this leadership has not indicated how the affirmative answer to the questions it asked the citizens will be put into practice. If they are unable to deliver results it will create another phase of frustration in the population. Having lived through this situation several times before, will leadership be able in the future to have credibility when true participation is needed?
  • The Consultation was definitely designed to gain international support to extend the life of the NA and Guaidó’s position as President (e). Referring to this issue, Guaidó has made several proposals: After the consultation in Venezuela: “The current Parliament will continue to be the legitimate one” and he has announced the extension of his mandate and has asked for support in the streets.
  • Guaidó also called for massive demonstrations on January 5 to prevent the installation of a new NA. This promises to be much more difficult, due to the inability that Guaidó has previously shown to promote protests, but also because of how much Maduro warned that there could be a “serious situation in the coming weeks” with the coronavirus, he would declare critical state precisely that week of January to stop people from moving around in the pandemic.

The opposition’s longer-term approach

Venezuelan political parties have shown practically no capacity to pressure the regime within the country. For this reason, its radius of action has been more in the international arena and has depended mainly on the United States. The departure of Trump and the incoming Biden administration produce, at the very least, a relatively passive period of several months while the new government is organized and especially since its main priorities are first and foremost to face the pandemic head on and to begin to fix the American economy. At the international level, apart from rebuilding the many democratic alliances weakened by four years of American isolation, China will be Biden’s most relevant concern and focus.  

Faced with this situation, we hear from Guaidó that the oil sanctions must be evaluated to better address them and from Leopoldo López the indication that it is not necessary to request the R2P (Responsibility to Protect), since some allied countries do not agree. If the regime has internal control and you have to turn to the international world, this means you have to increase external pressure to achieve changes in Venezuela. Does it make sense not to request that support? Is it good business for the opposition not to pressure the regime or its own allies? Is the solution being considered a co-government like the one that will be in the NA of 6D? Can you negotiate electoral solutions with the regime? Pastrana precisely questions Duque and Leopoldo’s proposal for a “transition with tyrants.”

External pressures manifest

Faced with the Venezuelan tragedy, international paralysis is not feasible as a response. Terribly sad was the death of a significant number of Venezuelans who tried to reach Trinidad and Tobago, seeking to escape and improve their horrible current living conditions. This brings to the world’s public opinion the Venezuelan realities, but mainly the macro problem that the displaced Venezuelans represent in the American continent in general.  The pandemic has worsened the economic prospects of all neighbors and the United Nations predicts 6 million displaced venezuelans. It will be impossible for these countries to close their eyes and ignore the impact of these immigrants.

The ICC’s Prosecutor’s Office also concluded that there are grounds to believe that the Maduro regime committed crimes against humanity. In the International Criminal Court this happened in a record time of two years and in some way this creates an additional element of pressure on the regime, coupled with the fact that this declaration involves the highest spheres of power.