WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
12 Jun 2019 | News

Op-Ed: Negotiating a Peaceful Transition in Venezuela

WOLA’s David Smilde gives insight into Venezuela’s negotiation strategy in the New York Times

Washington, D.C.The opening in Norway of preliminary talks between the government and democratic opposition of Venezuela has presented an important opportunity, and focused the attention of U.S. policymakers and analysts on the prospects for a peaceful, pacted transition in Venezuela.

In a new opinion piece in the New York Times, University of Southern California faculty emeritus Abraham F. Lowenthal and WOLA Senior Fellow David Smilde lay out conditions and actions that could contribute to negotiations for a peaceful and democratic solution to the Venezuela crisis. Drawing on examples from successful democratic transitions in Poland, Spain, South Africa, Chile, and Brazil, the authors identify some of the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for both the opposition and the international community in charting a path forward.

In the op-ed, Lowenthal and Smilde emphasize the importance of a realistic approach to constructing a transition on mutually acceptable terms among stakeholders. They suggest that successful negotiations must first pursue the interests of all parties rather than the objectives that most divide them. The authors also argue that compromise is an essential element of any political transition, and that a coordinated solution may have to incorporate transitional justice mechanisms and a power sharing arrangement.

A negotiated return to democracy will require the international community to exercise strategic diplomacy that backs any necessary guarantees or assurances. As the authors note, moving forward the United States can also play a fundamental role in exploring its shared interests with China, Cuba, and Russia in an economic recovery in Venezuela.