Over the last month, the International Contact Group (ICG) for Venezuela’s crisis has been working with international partners to “establish necessary guarantees for a credible electoral process,” and to enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance. From February 20 to 22, a Contact Group technical mission was in Caracas and carried out meetings with stakeholders in the Maduro regime, the opposition, and civil society. Conversations around elections are ongoing, and it seems that the European Union may be poised to make more immediate progress on the humanitarian issue. The Contact Group is meeting again in Montevideo, Uruguay, in mid-March, and a public update on their progress should emerge then.
In an analysis for the Fundación Carolina—a public-private partnership based in Spain—WOLA Senior Fellow David Smilde and Assistant Director for Venezuela Geoff Ramsey argue that the International Contact Group is the most promising alternative for facilitating a peaceful return to democracy in Venezuela. As the authors point out, the ICG’s Terms of Reference have been well-formulated to avoid empty dialogue. It has an explicit mandate not to be a mediator but to push for the conditions needed for credible elections to occur so that Venezuelans themselves can choose their leaders. While the path is fraught by skepticism and intransigence, with patience and pragmatism it could produce results.