Contact group to send mission to Venezuela to meet with gov’t, opposition


The International Contact Group on Venezuela, comprised of more than a dozen European and Latin American nations, agreed on Thursday to send a mission to contact the parties in that country, where it acknowledged that the humanitarian crisis is “worsening.”

In a declaration signed by almost all the participating countries, the group said it will continue working to “establish the necessary guarantees for a credible election process in the shortest possible time” and to ensure “the urgent delivery of assistance in accord with the international principles of humanitarian aid.”

The group, meeting in Montevideo, agreed to “send a technical mission” to Venezuela to contact both the government of beleaguered elected President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition, headed by self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaido.

In addition, they will hold another ministerial meeting in early March to analyze the development of the process.

The statement was signed by the European Union , Uruguay, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Spain, Italy, Portugal, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

Mexico and Bolivia, who also participated in the meeting, did not sign the final declaration.

The document alludes to the “severity of the current crisis in Venezuela and its impact on the region” along with the “difficult situation of its people.”

The group, created in late January, said that it was focused on achieving a “common international approach to support a peaceful, political, democratic and strictly Venezuelan resolution, excluding the use of force, via free, transparent and credible presidential elections, in accord with the Venezuelan Constitution.”

The group said that “so that Venezuela may overcome the crisis, it is crucial to restore full democracy, the state of law, the separation of powers and respect for the constitutional mandate of the country’s institutions, most particularly the National Assembly.”

The group emphasized that “the basic freedoms and the human rights of all Venezuelans must be respected” and it deplored the deaths and injuries caused by the “excessive use of force” in recent days and weeks.

The participants also acknowledged that “the humanitarian crisis continues worsening day by day, affecting millions of Venezuelans” and they expressed their commitment to provide more assistance in the areas requiring it, coordinating the delivery of such aid with the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Earlier on Thursday, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Italy’s Federica Mogherini, warned that the situation in Venezuela puts at “risk” the stability not only of Latin America but also the entire world and urged all parties to seek a solution to the crisis.

“The task that concerns us is urgent and this urgency comes from the worsening of the situation that runs the risk of destabilizing the region, and not only the region,” said Mogherini at the start of the first meeting of the International Contact Group on Venezuela being held in Montevideo.

The European representative emphasized that the conclave, which gathers about a dozen foreign ministers from Latin American and European countries, will seek “to contribute to a political and peaceful solution” to the crisis.

“This is not only the best result desirable but also the only possible result if we want to avoid more suffering,” she emphasized.

“I have informed the United Nations, the permanent members of the Security Council, the Holy See and different countries in the region and international actors about the establishment of the contact group and it is my intention to maintain those contacts,” she said.

The tension has increased since on Jan. 23 the head of the opposition-controlled Venezuelan Parliament, Juan Guaido, proclaimed himself interim president of the country given that the opposition considers the presidency of Nicolas Maduro to be illegitimate after he won “fraudulent” election last May without any meaningful competition.

The move by Guaido accelerated the political crisis in Venezuela given that a good portion of the international community, including the US and dozens of European and Latin American nations, have backed Guaido and are pressuring for the calling of new elections.

Mogherini said that the group’s aim “is not to impose processes or solutions on the Venezuelans” since the answer for alleviating “this crisis must come from the Venezuelan people.”

“Neither is the aim to establish mediation or direct negotiation, but we think that an international initiative is important to accompany a peaceful and democratic way out via free, transparent and credible presidential elections,” she said.

Of the 13 participating countries, just four (Bolivia, Italy, Mexico and Uruguay) have not formally recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.