1. The International Contact Group (ICG) met on 6 and 7 May in San José, Costa Rica, at ministerial level. Concerned by the recent events in Venezuela, the ICG members renewed their commitment to a political, peaceful, democratic and Venezuelan-owned solution, through the holding of free and fair presidential elections as soon as possible.
2. The ICG reaffirms its strong rejection of the use of force against civilians and expresses its deep condolences to the families and friends of the victims. The Group urges the security forces to act with utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life and suffering. Irregular armed groups must to be disbanded. Those responsible for indiscriminate violence will be held accountable. The right to peaceful protest must be respected and demonstrations should remain non-violent. The Group firmly condemns acts of violence against journalists and underlines that media freedom must be respected.
3. The priority now is to avoid further escalation of an already extremely tense situation. For this it is imperative to reinstate democracy, rule of law and separation of powers. Current events confirm that the only sustainable way out of the current crisis is an inclusive, democratic and peaceful one, in the framework of the country’s constitution. No actions of a repressive, judicial or political nature should be taken that would make this possibility more remote.
4. The ICG firmly condemns flawed judicial processes aimed at criminalising protest and political opinions, such as the proceedings initiated against several representatives of the National Assembly. Party leaders and members need to be able to carry out their work peacefully without intimidation and reprisals. The democratically elected National Assembly, under its President Juan Guaidó, should remain in the centre of the political life in the country, its constitutional prerogatives should be respected and in accordance with its national legislation, the parliamentary immunity of its members should be fully guaranteed. In this regard, the Group also condemns the enforced disappearance of Representative Gilber Caro, whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown. It holds the relevant authorities responsible for his safety and integrity.
5. Building on the work done since the Quito Ministerial Declaration, the ICG stresses that the best way forward lies in a credible negotiated political process, with the objective of bringing the country to democratic elections. This requires urgent meaningful confidence building measures, such as the release of political prisoners and changes in the respective branches of power in order to make them independent and accountable. The ICG will continue to support and facilitate efforts that can allow the country to move in this direction.
6. The ICG expresses its deep concern about the suffering of the Venezuelan people caused by increased insecurity and the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation, which has been further exacerbated by the lack of electricity and water supply in many areas of the country. In view of this, the ICG fully supports the ongoing efforts of the United Nations to establish an effective humanitarian response system and to deliver assistance to those most in need. In this regard, it also underlines the urgent need for a substantial humanitarian response that is commensurate with needs and in full compliance with the humanitarian principles and resolution 46/182 of UNGA. It is important and urgent that humanitarian organisations have unimpeded access and can effectively deliver and significantly scale up assistance swiftly, without constraints, free from any political interference.
7. The ICG commends the progress made since its last meeting in the functioning of the humanitarian response system working under the umbrella of ECCA (Equipo de coordinación de cooperacion y asistencia) and in the delivery of humanitarian support to people in need, and notes the important contribution of the ICG to these efforts.
8. However, the implementation capacity is still weak compared to the scale of need. The ICG therefore calls for further steps to facilitate the establishment of additional specialised national and international organisations –in particular INGO’s- in the country and to facilitate deployment of humanitarian operations on the ground, in accordance with commitments made by the relevant actors. To follow up on these commitments, and to step up work in support of ECCA, the ICG will set up a humanitarian working group in Caracas. The Group calls on donors to enhance contributions. The donor community should coordinate more effectively and the ICG welcomes the EU proposal to host a first meeting with this purpose.
9. While the solution to Venezuela's crisis needs to come from Venezuelans, the international community has a duty and a responsibility to contribute to creating the conditions for peace, democracy, rule of law and human rights to prevail in Venezuela. In this respect, having reviewed its contribution so far, the ICG has decided to continue its work subject to periodical assessment of progress made. The ICG is ready to undertake a mission at political level to Caracas, to present and discuss concrete options for a peaceful and democratic solution to this crisis.
10. The International Contact Group will continue to engage with its regional and international partners towards a political, peaceful and democratic solution. It welcomes the participation of the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis -in his capacity of Chair of the CARICOM-, the Secretary General of the CARICOM and the representative from the Holy See in the outreach session of the meeting. It also welcomes and accepts the invitation extended by the Lima Group of countries to meet. It has decided to have similar exchanges with CARICOM countries and other relevant interlocutors. The group has also decided to convene again at ministerial level, in the near future, to assess developments and decide next steps.
This statement has been agreed by the following ICG members: the EU, eight of its Member States (France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) and three countries from Latin America (Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay).