WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
18 Oct 2023 | WOLA Statement

Renewed Negotiations on Venezuela are a Positive Step. Barriers to Free and Fair Elections Remain

The renewed dialogue and negotiations on Venezuela and the agreements signed on October 17, 2023, between the opposition’s Unitary Platform and the Venezuelan government represent a crucial first step towards a peaceful and democratic solution to Venezuela’s deep political and humanitarian crises. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) welcomes this progress.

The mediation of the Norwegian government and the accompaniment of representatives from Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Colombia, France, Mexico, Russia, the European Union, the Netherlands and the United States has been instrumental in this process. The support of international stakeholders is essential in the construction of peace and reconciliation, as they are in a unique position to hold the parties accountable for the fulfillment of the agreements.

The Partial Agreement on the Promotion of Political Rights and Electoral Guarantees for All affirms the parties’ commitment to abide by the Venezuelan Constitution and the law, which entails the protection of human rights. The Venezuelan government and the Unitary Platform agreed to propose that the Presidential election be held in the second semester of 2024, the electoral registry will be updated, all planned audits of the Venezuelan electoral system will be carried out, a request will be made to invite technical international election observation missions, balanced coverage in the media will be promoted, and electoral results will be publicly recognized, among other measures. WOLA encourages the parties to discuss concrete steps to implement these important agreements as well as mechanisms of accountability. 

WOLA also welcomes the parties’ commitment in the Partial Agreement for the Protection of the Vital Interests of the Nation, to abide by the rules of international law when it comes to reclaiming the disputed territory of Guyana Esequiba, as well as the commitment to unite in the protection of Venezuelan assets abroad.

While significant, these agreements should be viewed as a first step towards  further dialogue and negotiation on issues that require urgent attention. Crucially, the Venezuelan government should commit to lifting the disqualification of opposition candidates who are being prevented from running in the upcoming presidential elections. These disqualifications are contrary to the Venezuelan Constitution and are a violation of the right to political participation as enshrined in international human rights treaties. The Venezuelan government should also commit to the release of people who have been arbitrarily detained, especially of those detained for political reasons. The government and the opposition should also prioritize the development of a more robust and effective humanitarian response to the people in need, including compliance with the Social Agreement signed in November 2022.

Finally, we urge the Maduro government to ensure the opposition primary elections are carried out on October 22 without interference. In the 2024 Presidential elections and 2025 legislative, regional and local elections, all human rights must be respected. The coming electoral cycle provides an opportunity for Venezuela’s political actors to manifest their will for a negotiated, democratic solution by developing and complying with these and previous agreements, and by continuing to work on future steps forward.