Democracy, human rights and diplomacy: Belarus and Venezuela

Experts examine the Belarus and Venezuela regimes in comparative context.

Research event
24 March 2021 — 2:00PM TO 3:30PM

In August 2020, citizens in Belarus took to the streets in protest after President Aliaksandr Lukashenka retained power after fraudulent elections. In the weeks that followed, certain countries and the European Union applied limited sanctions and froze the assets of selected key members of the governing circle in response to the stolen election and government repression of the demonstrators and opposition leaders.

In Venezuela, the cycle of stolen elections, demonstrations, repression, and international outcry is also a tragically familiar one. In 2018, President Nicolas Maduro was re-elected in a clearly lopsided and corrupt process, leading a year later to the opposition bloc in the National Assembly to choose one of its members to create a constitutional interim government.

Mass street marches in support of the interim government followed, only to be met with mass arrests and violence, despite widespread international support for the interim government and individual and economic sanctions on the government and officials.

In both cases, autocracy arrived through elections and was built through the systematic destruction of the checks and balances on presidents’ power and the closing of civic and political space behind the façade of democratic processes. While successful in bringing attention to the dire political situation, international outcry and diplomatic and economic pressure failed to significantly move either government or improve human rights conditions.

The roundtable examines the Belarus and Venezuela regimes in comparative context – tactics, practices, intentions, and potential openings. It discusses the diplomatic efforts surrounding the consolidation of authoritarian power in each country, the difficulties of coordination, their success, or lack of, in changing behaviour of the regimes, and the influence of other external pro-regime allies.

For both countries, and for liberal democratic governments, the question remains: how can transformation be achieved in the face of such intransigence?

This event is co-hosted by the Russia and Eurasia Programme and the Latin America Initiative, part of the US and the Americas Programme.


Miriam Kornblith, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, National Endowment for Democracy

Ambassador Tom Shannon, Former US Under Secretary of State

Andrei Yeliseyeu, Research Director, the EAST Center

Dr Clara Portela, Senior Associate Analyst, European Union Institute for Security Studies

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