We urge all sides of the political battle to find common ground to prevent bloodshed, starvation, millions more refugees or political solutions dictated by outside forces. We believe that the world, and especially the country’s neighbors, should listen to Venezuelans themselves. The United States could eventually get its way in a winner-take-all struggle, but at the grave risk of the extreme suffering of millions of Venezuelans — beyond the great suffering to date.
As a first step, we recommend that Chavismo and opposition forces join to insist that the state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela’s earnings be put to the immediate disposal of the Venezuelan people for two urgent uses: food and medicine, and oil field equipment and maintenance to keep the Venezuelan economy from collapsing. The use of these funds should be guided by a joint committee of the government and the National Assembly, with United Nations support. Mr. Guaidó, who has been handed Venezuela’s oil earnings by United States decisions, should immediately suggest such a solution in the interest of the nation’s survival and peace.
Second, both sides should agree to an interim government of experts to help bring Venezuela’s hyperinflation and economic collapse to an end. This interim government should have a limited mandate for economic stabilization and recovery, to carry the nation to new elections within one to two years. Leaders of the current government, possibly including Mr. Maduro, would play a limited and predetermined role in the interim government — for example retaining control of national defense — but their powers would be circumscribed and would not include the economy and reform of the electoral system.
The agreement should also include the appointment of new independent electoral authorities, which would be tasked with rebuilding the country’s electoral institutions in order to make a free and fair election possible. The international community, backed by the United Nations Security Council, should support such stabilization efforts and accept that elections would take place only after the end of the hyperinflation and the reform of electoral institutions, when social and political conditions are suitable.
Third, the transition government and the framework for future elections should be based on respect for the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, and the protection of human rights. Venezuela’s neighbors, above all, should champion negotiation and compromise rather than winner-take-all politics. Venezuela’s recovery, healing and peace are the nation’s, and the region’s, most urgent needs.
Francisco Rodríguez is chief economist at Torino Economics. Jeffrey D. Sachs is University Professor at Columbia University.
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