Venezuela Fragility Brief 2022

Once the richest country in Latin America, Venezuela currently rests in a delicate equilibrium between stability and fragility. The hybrid regime and rentier state characteristics of the government have meant that institutional frameworks create false illusions of adherence to democratic processes and rule of law. The individuals forming the country’s elite, namely high ranking military and United Socialist Party of Venezuela officials, are able to maintain power by relying on oil revenues to establish provisional stability among state security forces and non-state armed groups. The desire to maintain the status quo, notably in the context of a contested presidency, is demonstrative of a capacity trap, a negative feedback loop between reduced capacity and legitimacy. In the context of Venezuela, it is caused by an unwillingness to improve the country’s situation by those in power. This has led to a neglect of the social contract, leading to significant levels of poverty, food insecurity, and emigration. It has also led to the mismanagement of the country’s resources, which threatens Venezuela’s long-term stability. Societal trust in governing institutions is low.

The present brief analyzes the drivers of fragility for Venezuela following the methodology of the Country Indicators for Foreign Policy. Characterized as having a high impact on the country’s fragility, with a deteriorating trend, the primary drivers of Venezuela’s fragility are the Governance and Economic Development clusters. The overall worsening of indicators in these clusters has a snowball effect which negatively impacts the secondary drivers of fragility: Security and Crime, Human Development, Demography and Population, and Environment. To resolve the structural causes of fragility, three policy options are presented. They are based on scenarios projected over the next six months and focus on improved relations between Venezuela and the US, technical policy training for government officials, and regional border security enhancement.

This brief is directed to the Organization of American States as it is well positioned to address the structural causes of Venezuela’s fragility. The organization maintains an extensive network of partners, has significant technical experience, and is mandated to promote democracy, human rights, and security in Latin America. Despite challenging the jurisdiction of the OAS in 2017, contested Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Moros has expressed a willingness to engage in negotiations with the opposition in order to work towards lifting US sanctions. The OAS can therefore use this to encourage the government’s participation in the proposed Policy Options One and Two. In the event he declines to engage, Policy Option Three presents a course of action that does not require Venezuela’s cooperation.