Venezuela at a crossroads

In Venezuela, a dialogue between the government and the opposition is the path to resolving the violence that already resulted in 41 deaths. For it to succeed, both parties must be willing to be flexible and compromise in some of their positions.

That is not exactly what happened at the first meeting between President Nicolás Maduro and Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, the leader of the Coalition for Democratic Unity (MUD). The meeting, which was broadcast live, served more as a form of catharsis than negotiation. For the first time, they were able to talk to each other directly, even if only to reaffirm what was known.

During the second meeting, in private and without the main leaders, the opposition agreed to participate in the government’s National Pacification Plan, while the government agreed to create a Truth Commission made up of well-regarded figures not involved in politics. The commission would investigate, among others, recent incidents of violence. Given the situation, this is already a step forward.

Foreign ministers from Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, in addition to the papal nuncio, have a bigger role than just brokering the meetings to stop the wave of violence and repression. They will have to exert pressure behind the scenes so the dialogue is not interrupted as differences start emerging.

Neither the government nor the opposition has uniform ideas about ways to handle the political crisis. On the one hand, some people see reasonable complaints about the government’s authoritarian policies as an attempt to overthrow it, while on the other, people see Maduro as an illegitimate figure who must resign.

These groups must remember that neither has a monopoly over popular support. The election a year ago showed a deeply divided country. Meaning, Maduro cannot govern by force and the opposition does not have strong enough support to topple him without drastically increasing the level of violence. The path to pulling Venezuela out of its political crisis consists of dialogue and flexibility in negotiations.