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Maduro moves

The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.Matias Delacroix / AP

The presidential pardon granted by Nicolás Maduro to more than 100 political and persecuted prisoners once again highlights the vulnerability in which hundreds of critics of Chavismo are imprisoned or with open processes. The gesture represents a significant step towards moving towards a democratic space and opens a necessary reflection on the opposition, which must take advantage of the initiative to achieve the widest possible consensus in order to achieve elections with full and transparent guarantees.

Behind the grace measure is a negotiation with several opposition leaders, the most prominent being the former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, with a view to the legislative elections scheduled for the end of the year. All signs to date point to the fact that these elections still do not have full democratic guarantees, as has been warned by most of the international community, including the European Union. The precedent of the presidential elections of May 2018, to which only a small part of the opposition attended and which were rejected by the main countries and international organizations for being fraudulent, as well as the continuous persecution to which the anti-Chavista sectors have been subjected since their resounding victory in 2015, they have marked extremes that critics cannot tolerate and that the Venezuelan government must resign.

Maduro’s need to regain international legitimacy in the face of the critical situation in the Venezuelan population, aggravated by the pandemic, places the opposition under the obligation to seek the greatest possible consensus. Juan Guaidó, still recognized as interim president by dozens of countries, including Spain, has expressed his refusal to participate in the elections, while Capriles is committed to a more pragmatic attitude. It thus seeks to distance the opposition from the virtuality in which the interim government proclaimed by Guaidó is entrenched, which not only has not achieved its main objective, to remove Maduro from power, but has been involved in unacceptable maneuvers, such as the bizarre paramilitary operation last May.

Just as the status quo of the opposition will not be able to survive in time, entering elections without full guarantees could end in an involuntary suicide of critics of Chavismo. The pandemic has opened a space for, through international organizations, all sectors to establish contacts that have allowed the delivery of humanitarian aid. It is a path that should serve to achieve greater agreements. The measures of grace of the last days, and those that are supposed to come, point to a new scenario that must be used by all actors with height, without giving priority to private interests. A negotiated political solution to the crisis through democratic elections is the only possible way. This, however, must inexorably include the release of all political prisoners, the guarantee that all parties and leaders can attend and the commitment that the human rights of Venezuelans will not be violated again. If this is not achieved, the opposition will plunge into a new journey in the desert and Maduro will ruin the umpteenth opportunity to regain credibility, but it will be the population, who has suffered an unsustainable crisis for too long, who will suffer the most.