Plan now to heal a post-Maduro Venezuela

By preparing for a return of democracy and economic health, the interim president and his foreign partners can create an incentive for a transition of power.

Passengers are seen during a blackout at Simon Bolivar international airport in Caracas, Venezuela March 25.

Three months after Venezuela’s National Assembly swore in Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president, more than 50 nations have recognized the legitimacy of his rule. Many of those countries have tried tough tactics, such as sanctions, to bring a return of democracy. Yet with the sitting president, Nicolás Maduro, still holding the reins of state power, now may be a time to try a bit of honey beyond merely the vinegar of pressure.

One idea is for Mr. Guaidó and the National Assembly to prepare for the day when Mr. Maduro departs, which is difficult to predict. Guaidó said last week the regime is “falling apart day by day.”

They should gather core partner countries and international organizations, such as the Inter-American Development Bank, to prepare for the relief and recovery of a nation in dire need of humanitarian aid and basic restructuring. The goal: a successful transition to a democratic and once again prosperous Venezuela.

The United States and others have learned much from past successes and failures that the proper planning of such transitions can make all the difference. In places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and post-earthquake Haiti, the key was tight cooperation with local groups and between allied nations.

Venezuela’s legitimate authorities should begin that hard work now. Mr. Guaidó and his advisers have already developed an initial concept called “Plan País” that can serve as a starting point. It needs far more details on how to deliver humanitarian assistance quickly and effectively. This may well include ways to manage an early return of millions of refugees. 

Plans also need to address key sectors of the economy for delivery of basic services, such as electricity, water, and sanitation. Special attention must be given to the oil and gas sector because of its vital importance to Venezuela’s economy. The core group will also need to examine what legal steps are needed to allow the economy – and society – to rapidly begin a return to healthy activity.

At the same time, international partners can address ways to deal with Venezuela’s international debt and other financial needs. This will help make it easier for the country to gain grants and loans for its recovery.

One critical step will be plans to hold early presidential elections that are seen as secure, free, and fair. Again, international partners can provide invaluable assistance.

The most difficult area to prepare will be security. A new government may face resistance from remnants of Mr. Maduro’s armed militia or members of the military as well as from common criminals, drug cartels, and insurgent elements originally from Colombia. International support will be invaluable for establishing security.

Collaboration on all these preparations will enable Venezuela’s new authorities to begin with strength from day one. Starting the work with international partners will also send a clear message to the Venezuelan people that they will have help once the transition of power and recovery begin.

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