Updated: Aug 22, 2021
The vicious cycle of false elections, court packing and a network of threats that the regime maintains thanks to a set of “adaptive agents” that serve as sustenance, are the survival formula of the dictator in power.
TUESDAY, JUNE 22, 2021
By Maibort Petit
The failure of the negotiations established between the regime of Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan opposition since 2019 with the facilitation of the international community have failed and have been ineffective, due to the false electoral offer that the government has put on the table with the only aim to deceive and distract from his true intentions to stay in power indefinitely.
This is established by a report from the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), dated June 21, 2021 and signed by José Gustavo Arocha, senior researcher at the institution, retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Venezuelan Army and former political prisoner from 2014 to 2015. He is a specialist in civil-military relations, violent conflicts, cybersecurity and terrorist threats in Latin America and provides advice and logistical services to high-profile Venezuelan dissidents and critics of the Venezuelan regime.
Arocha warns that the Maduro regime's offer constitutes a vicious circle of elections in which it uses high levels of disinformation, intelligence and counterintelligence, as well as strategic influence operations to constantly mislead the international community about its intentions to negotiate with the political opposition.
Meanwhile, he says that the opposition and many international observers are distracted by this vicious cycle of false elections, a moment that the regime takes advantage of to increase its complex network of adaptive threats throughout the region.
The report makes mention of the threat network of Venezuela that complicates any negotiation process with the regime because the illicit economies are capturing more territory in the country that, instead of weakening Maduro, they harden it and he takes advantage of it to expand these threats, co-opting companies and NGOs that would otherwise be legitimate.
The expert underlines the error of starting the process without starting from a proper diagnosis, both of the regime's deception strategy and its network of threats, it will lead to a zero-sum game where the regime has all the influence and control.
In his report, the specialist speaks for the dismantling of the complex and adaptive network of threats of Venezuela abroad, since this takes away influence and options from the regime and makes a negotiation process more viable in the future.
The current negotiations
The report refers that Venezuela has reached another crossroads in which the interim president, Juan Guaidó, recently presented a proposal to resume negotiations with the Maduro regime with the aim of achieving the elusive goal of free and fair elections in a country. It is going through the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere. Maduro's response was to demand three conditions precedent to any negotiation: 1) lifting of all sanctions; 2) recognition of the regime as a legitimate power; and 3) access to funds seized and frozen abroad.
Few Venezuelans believe in dialogue and negotiations with the regime, as the regime in the past has repeatedly used negotiations as a delaying tactic, thereby further dividing the political opposition and distracting the international community, the report warns.
In fact, it is mentioned that, in May 2019, after the parties began a negotiation in Oslo / Barbados, mediated by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Guaidó announced a few months later, their failure and the Withdrawal from the regime, the opposition lost control of the National Assembly and some support from the international community. Several European states no longer recognize Guaidó, but neither do they recognize Maduro.
The report raises some basic questions centered not on the fact of whether a negotiation should take place, since it is argued that, indeed, it must take place, but on the cost and conditions of the same.
The vicious cycle of false elections
José Gustavo Arocha's report details how the Maduro regime perpetuates a vicious cycle of negotiations that lead to bogus elections.
The Chavista (Socialist) government has not stopped in the last two decades to hone its ability to use high levels of disinformation, intelligence and counterintelligence, as well as operations of strategic influence to permanently deceive the international community regarding its intentions to negotiate with the opposition. politics. Such behavior allowed for a cyclical pattern and a multi-step process to fulfill the strategic deception currently carried out by the regime.
The cycle begins with the false promise of free elections, followed by new rules imposed by the regime, while the angry opposition calls for protests and the regime applies violent repression. Such a situation leads to more dialogue and negotiations and the "vicious circle" closes the circle by holding, again, mock elections in Venezuela.
The report cites the latest complete "vicious circle" of sham elections in Venezuela, in which the opposition won the majority of the legislature to work toward eventual electoral reform. The response of the regime was to use the outgoing legislators to fill the Supreme Court of Justice with loyalists and then to constitute the Constituent Assembly, made up entirely of followers of the regime, which became the government's parallel legislature. This according to an opinion in the Hill is similar to what the Democrats are trying to accomplish with court packing.
In 2017, the new hoax occurred when after brutal repression and human rights violations resulted in the murder of some 157 people and the arrest of more than 5,300. The international community, unaware of the regime's manipulations, called for more dialogue, which led to the negotiations in the Dominican Republic sponsored by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which failed in February 2018. A meeting that paved the way for the regime to hold another bogus election, the 2018 presidential elections that the opposition did not recognize. The "vicious circle" was completed with the 2020 parliamentary elections, where Maduro regained the legislative majority. As such, the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly was not surprising.
Now, Nicolás Maduro, remains president until 2024, the report warns, with more than 90 percent of the National Assembly in his favor and the opposition increasingly fractured and divided and with less popular support.
And the report warns: "However, it seems that the hard lessons of the 'vicious circle' are not learned, since a 'new' cycle will be repeated this November 2021 with the next elections to governor in Venezuela."
José Gustavo Arocha's report warns that while the opposition and many international observers are distracted by the "vicious circle" of false elections, the regime intensifies its network of threats, since its main focus is not negotiations or elections, but consolidate the complex network of adaptive threats in Venezuela that projects an asymmetric power abroad.
He explains that these "adaptive agents" are individuals and entities capable of interacting with each other in a dynamic, often non-linear way, operating autonomously in both illicit activities and legitimate businesses. They do not have a command and control structure, but they are coherent enough to recognize that their survival is connected to the survival of the Maduro regime. “Mutual dependence supersedes any ideological or cultural differences and allows a balance between autonomy and purpose. This is the essence of the Venezuelan threat network, which is decentralized and horizontally distributed throughout society. It is one of the main reasons why the Maduro regime persists in power despite international pressure ”.
It adds that the convergence of threats depends on strong logistical networks that expand the reach and reach of various illicit actors, driven by illicit economies, such as drug trafficking, laundering, smuggling, counterfeiting, etc., which are growing in size and in size. importance in Venezuela.
The report points out that, although the illicit economies are taking over more and more territory in Venezuela, this, instead of weakening the Maduro regime, hardens and expands the network of threats and provides it with more tools and opportunities to appropriate parts of the sector. private and civil society. This web of threats combines illicit activities with legitimate companies and NGOs involved in key sectors and industries, such as energy, gold, transportation, communications and humanitarian aid.
Ecoanalítica, a corporate finance consultancy, is quoted as saying that more than USD 6 billion in US currency circulates in Venezuela, linked to three illicit economies: gold smuggling, oil smuggling and drug trafficking. The flow of this cash allowed the creation of new stores only in US dollars known as "bodegones", which are co-opted by the regime to build a political, economic, social and communication apparatus that will escape international pressure. in particular sanctions and they become adaptive agents in Venezuela's threat network.
The report also warns that this network of threats is what complicates any negotiation process with the regime, since the large size of the illicit economies in Venezuela has created conditions in which too many businessmen and others are complacent with corruption and neutral. to the deceptive strategies of the regime, because, despite its opposition to the regime, it needs to survive.
What to do?
The report bluntly warns that "there is no silver bullet" to bring down Maduro "and underlines that the most important lesson of the last two years of the Trump administration's maximum pressure strategy is that the regime survives thanks to its network of transnational and transregional threats, which oxygenates it to resist international pressure.
It is stated in the report that continuing with the negotiations without a proper diagnosis of both the regime's strategic deception strategy and its network of threats will simply lead to a zero-sum game in which Maduro has full control. Incorporating civil society, the military, or other actors will result in the regime finding additional levers to steer the negotiations in its preferred direction.
Knowledge of the regime's behavior, understanding the complexity of the threat network and the regime's regional strategy, depends on the opposition's option to dismantle it.
The true cry of the Venezuelan people is not vaccines against the coronavirus or humanitarian aid, warns the report, but the international community that helps them to dislodge a totalitarian regime. But it must be clear that this cannot be from the inside alone, since the path to a new Venezuela is to take the options away from the regime abroad.
It is necessary to work with regional governments and civil society in Latin America and the Caribbean to locate, identify, and neutralize the adaptive agents of the Venezuelan threat network that exist in their countries, since their dismantling will remove leverage and options from regime. This, the report argues, will make the negotiation process more effective and more viable in the future.