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Americas

Opinion: Venezuela trapped in violent stalemate

Venezuelan students have been protesting for nearly six weeks now. The government is using force to clamp down, and the conflict has reached total standstill. It can only be resolved externally, says DW's Marc Koch.

Nothing works anymore. Venezuela is trapped. For weeks, the country has been teetering on the brink of a civil war. The hopelessly overburdened government of President Nicolas Maduro can think of nothing better than repression and outrageous rhetoric to solve the conflict with the protesting students. And Venezuela's opposition is - once more - not able to present itself as a serious, democratic force and a realistic alternative.

No will for a solution

Barricades are set alight every night and

people are dying in Caracas

and other cities, but there is no solution to the political standstill. The student protests are yielding little for the country and their cause, though they have brought themselves some short-term international attention. And Maduro has shown what an authoritarian and outdated politician is capable of. But if the current situation continues, the people's frustration is only likely to mount in a country characterized by mismanagement, hyperinflation, and violence.

After these weeks of violence it's obvious that Venezuela can't help itself at the moment. That would be the desirable solution but both sides lack the political will for a solution. The president's offer to meet for dialogue and peace while the opposition politicians are in military prison is a hypocritical and transparent strategy.

The difficulties of the international community

Mediation and moderation need to come from outside Venezuela. But the Latin American community has confined itself to a few comments on human rights and democracy, though it's already a good sign that most of the governments did not chum up with the Venezuelan regime, as Argentina did.

Now there is a plan: UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) will analyze the situation and maybe even mediate. Whoever had this idea, it's not the most promising. The alliance is far from neutral, and in addition its mission is based on a contract that does not protect democratic institutions but the current government. There is not much hope for the opposition if the mediation attempt comes from UNASUR.

Brazilians failure

UNASUR's action shows the blatant failure of a self-declared regional power: Brazil is playing a really poor role in this conflict. Its Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Figueiredo said in an interview that Brazil does not want to assess the events in the country because non-interference is a pillar of Brazilian foreign policy. But this did not prevent him from justifying Russia's intervention in Crimea in the very same interview.

Brazil is not taking its opportunities: President Dilma Rousseff is not known for being an opponent of Maduro, and there is at least the chance that he would listen to her. And she, pragmatic as she is, could find a way out of the stagnant situation. It is strange and inexplicable, given its economic interests, that Brazil is missing the opportunity to improve its international image by assuming some responsibilities in Venezuela.

Passivity is dangerous

This is not simply a regional detail, but a strategic mistake. Venezuelan political researchers hope that a third force will emerge from the conflict and solves it. That's academic wishful thinking, if only because it won't happen in the short-term. It is more likely that forces from outside will interfere: twice already, China provided the country with credit worth billions.

If Latin America does not take action and send clear signals, the entire continent might be caught in the stalemate.

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