May 12 2021. Juan Guajdo, a former president of Venezuela’s parliament and opposition representative, proposed a so-called “national salvation agreement” on Monday, hoping to be negotiated by the opposition and President Nicolas Maduro’s government, as well as the international community, to promote the agreement. Maduro responded lukewarmly that day.
“Venezuela is in the midst of the worst crisis in the entire history of this country,” Guajido said in a video posted on Twitter. He proposed a “national salvation agreement” advocating “free and fair” national elections, as well as a timetable for elections at all levels, requiring international observers to monitor the elections and the participation of a coalition of the opposition.
Guajdo said the two sides should be involved in negotiating the agreement, and that if Maduro’s government agrees to the requirements set out in the agreement, the international community should work to “phase out sanctions.”
Maduro won re-election in May 2018, but the United States and other countries backed the opposition’s claims of presidential fraud, endorsing Guajdo’s self-styled “interim president” in January 2019. Then-President Donald Trump’s administration in early 2019 imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s national oil company, restricting crude oil exports, and in 2020 sanctioned the company’s partners and tankers carrying Venezuelan crude oil. Venezuela is rich in oil and highly dependent on oil exports, and U.S. sanctions have severely affected the country’s economic revenues. In addition, the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Venezuelan military politicians.
The U.S. State Department has yet to respond to Guajdo’s proposal. James Storey, the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, said on Twitter that the U.S. supports Guajdo’s efforts to promote fair elections and that “the solution to the crisis lies in a comprehensive agreement.” Storey was the first U.S. ambassador to the commission in nearly a decade, but because the U.S. Embassy is currently unincupied, Storey is “remotely” an ambassador in Colombia.
Hours after Guajdo’s proposal, Maduro called on people at an event not to be confused by the opposition. “We will not give in to North American imperialism, we will resist fully on the front lines,” Maduro said.
Since becoming the “interim president”, Guajdo has been campaigning with U.S. support, from launching small-scale mutiny to trying to woo military personnel. Venezuela’s parliament voted in January 2020 to replace Guajardo as president of the opposition lawmaker Luis Parra. In the new parliamentary elections in December 2020, the ruling coalition won. The Guajido camp boycotted the elections and did not participate. The European Union announced in January that it would no longer recognize Guajdo as Venezuela’s “interim president” and that it would “demote” him.
The Associated Press interpreted the recent signal from Maduro’s government that it was trying to ease relations with the United States. The commission released several employees of Citroen Oil, who have served more than three years in prison on corruption charges. Last week, the National Assembly appointed two opposition officials, including a jailed activist. It is the first time since 2005 that the opposition has a seat on the five-member National Electoral Commission.
Senior officials at several U.S. federal agencies are considering policy options for the commission, including whether to ease sanctions and support dialogue between the opposition and Maduro’s government, the Associated Press reported, citing people familiar with the matter.