The Venezuela Working Group (VWG) is a high-level group that informs policymakers in the United States, Europe, and Latin America on how to advance a long-term vision and action-oriented policies to foster democratic stability in Venezuela. The Venezuela Working Group is part of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center’s continued Venezuela programming that promotes the restoration of democratic institutions in Venezuela through a sustained, human-centered international campaign that advances an inclusive, Venezuelan-led democratic resolution to the political crisis.

Convening virtually at least once a month, VWG members draw from their diverse backgrounds, global networks, and deep expertise to tackle the most challenging issues around Venezuela policy, both at the domestic and international levels. Priority issues for the VWG’s 2021 work include: supporting Venezuela’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts; assessing risks and opportunities around upcoming regional elections; exploring non-traditional mechanisms for effectively mitigating Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis and the role of the country’s oil industry and the international community in such mechanisms; and examining the role of Russia’s security and defense cooperation with the Maduro in the context of the ongoing crisis.

Members of the Venezuela Working Group

Paul Angelo
Fellow for Latin America Studies,
Council on Foreign Relations

Colette Capriles
Associate Professor and Researcher in Philosophy, Politics, and Social Sciences,
Simon Bolivar University

Leonardo Coutinho
International Fellow for Brazil,
Center for Secure Free Society

Adriana D’Elia
Senior Counselor, Office of the Executive Director for Panama and Venezuela
Inter-American Development Bank;
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center
Atlantic Council

Evan Ellis
Research Professor,
Latin American Studies, Strategic Studies Institute

US Army War College

Douglas Farah
President,
IBI Consultants

Mariano Federici
Managing Director,
K2 Integrity;
Former Director,
Financial Intelligence Unit
,
Republic of Argentina

Carrie Filipetti
Executive Director,
Vandenberg Coalition;
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cuba and Venezuela,
US Department of State

Vera de Gyarfas
Partner,
Mayer Brown

José Ignacio Hernández
Fellow,
Growth Lab, Center for International Development

Harvard University;
Former Special Prosecutor,
Interim Government of Venezuela

Tamara Herrera
Managing Director and Chief Economist,
Síntesis Financiera

Joseph Humire
Executive Director,
Center for a Secure Free Society

Leopoldo Martínez
Founder and CEO,
Center for Democracy and Development in the Americas;
Former Representative,
Venezuela National Assembly

Luisa Palacios
Senior Research Scholar,
Center on Global Energy Policy
School of International and Public Affairs

Columbia University;
Former Chairwoman,
Board of Directors

CITGO

Francisco Monaldi
Director and Fellow,
Latin America Initiative, Baker Institute for Public Policy
Rice University

Roberto Patiño
Founder,
Mi Convive and Alimenta La Solidaridad;
Millennial Leadership Fellow,
Atlantic Council

Miguel Pizarro
Presidential Commissioner to the United Nations and Humanitarian Aid,
Interim Government of Venezuela

John Polga-Hecimovich
Assistant Professor of Political Science,
US Naval Academy

Celina Realuyo
Professor of Practice,
William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies

National Defense University

Feliciano Reyna
Founder and Executive President,
Acción Solidaria

Erika Rodríguez
Professor and Associate Researcher,
Complutense University;
Coordinator, Latin American Studies
Fundación Alternativas

José Luis Saboin
Economist,
Andean Countries Department

Inter-American Development Bank

David Smolansky
Secretary General Envoy for Venezuelan Migration and Refugee Crisis
Organization of American States

Patricia Ventura Nicolas
Director,
Regional Public Affairs and Government Relations

IPD Latin America

Paul Angelo

Fellow for Latin American Studies,
Council on Foreign Relations

Paul J. Angelo is a fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). His work focuses on US-Latin America relations, transnational crime, violent actors, military and police reform, and immigration. A former active-duty naval officer, Angelo has extensive experience in military and government service. Angelo was formerly an international affairs fellow at CFR, and in this capacity, he represented the US Department of State as a political officer at the US embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where he managed the ambassador’s security and justice portfolio. In the embassy’s Political Section, he provided technical assistance to the Honduran police reform commission; supported strategy development and agenda-setting for Afro-descendent, indigenous, and LGBTQ networks to improve civic engagement; and led policy and legal analysis on violence, crime, and migration trends. His previous service in the US Navy included tours in a United Kingdom-based NATO position, on board a destroyer deployed to the Asia-Pacific region, and as an instructor at the US Naval Academy, where he taught Spanish and Latin American politics courses. During his naval career, Angelo deployed to Colombia on three occasions over the course of more than a decade. During his longest mission in Colombia, he served as the US embassy’s principal liaison to the Colombian military and police in the highly conflictive Pacific coast. He was directly responsible for the planning of inter-agency missions focused on improving local governance, rule of law, and security in support of Plan Colombia, and he spearheaded the coordination and implementation of the embassy’s largest bilateral humanitarian mission in 2011. Angelo holds a BS in political science (with honors) from the US Naval Academy, where he was awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship; an MPhil in Latin American studies (with distinction) from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar; and a PhD in politics from University College London. Angelo’s written commentary has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, The Hill, and The Miami Herald.

Colette Capriles

Associate Professor and Researcher in Philosophy, Politics, and Social Sciences,
Simon Bolivar University

Colette Capriles is associate professor and researcher in the areas of philosophy, politics, and social sciences at the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas. Previously, she has worked in public administration, in the design and management of social and cultural policy programs, and in political consulting. Capriles received the Federico Riu prize for her work titled La riqueza de las pasiones: la filosofía moral de Adam Smith in 2001 and a prize for best op-ed in Venezuela’s daily newspaper El Nacional in 2006. In addition to numerous academic articles, she has published two books: La revolución como espectáculo (2004) and La máquina de impedir (2010). Capriles has been a columnist for various Venezuelan and international outlets. She currently works on philosophical themes around tyranny and democracies in the twenty-first century and manages Argos magazine, an academic publication indexed at the Simon Bolivar University.

Leonardo Coutinho

International Fellow for Brazil,
Center for Secure Free Society

Leonardo Coutinho currently serves as the international fellow for Brazil for the Center for a Secure Free Society—a national-security think tank based in Washington, DC. Coutinho is an expert on transnational threats in Latin America, specializing in corruption, drug trafficking, and transnational crime. Coutinho has provided briefings on international terrorism hubs in Brazil, the Venezuela crisis, and corruption cases and investigations to universities and policymakers in South America and United States. Previously, Coutinho was a former VEJA magazine journalist where he published several investigations about Iranian activities in Latin America and extremists’ cells in Brazil and other countries. He is a six-time winner of the Journalist Award from Grupo Abril. Coutinho graduated from the Faculdade de Filosofia Ciências e Letras de Belo Horizonte in Brazil with a degree in journalism. Coutinho also has certificates in Islamic law studies (Leiden Universiteit) and strategy and defense (William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies).

Adriana D’Elia

Senior Counselor, Office of the Executive Director for Panama and Venezuela,
Inter-American Development Bank;
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center,
Atlantic Council

Adriana D’Elia is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, and a senior counselor at the Office of the Executive Director for Panamá and Venezuela at the Inter-American Development Bank since July 2019. D’Elia has a bachelor’s degree in urban planning from Simón Bolívar University in Caracas, Venezuela, where she also taught for ten years; has a master’s degree in regional and urban planning from Oklahoma University (1990); and as a young professional she became the director of transportation planning in the Venezuelan Ministry of Transportation and Communications. Then, she was the project manager of consulting projects for the Institute of Regional and Urban Studies of the Simón Bolívar Universtiy (IERU). In her tenure in public office, D’Elia was the director of urban planning and cadastre, and then general director in the Mayoralty of Baruta, a metropolitan area of Caracas (2000–2008). She was also mayor in charge in Baruta. Later, she was the secretary of government of the state of Miranda, the central region where four out of the five municipalities of the metropolitan area of Caracas are located. She was also governor in charge (2008–2015).  Her experience in government was always in support of Henrique Capriles Radonski’s positions as mayor of Baruta, two-time governor of the state of Miranda, and two-times presidential candidate, competing against Hugo Chávez (2012) and Nicolás Maduro (2013). Before being forced to leave Venezuela, D’Elia was deputy to the National Assembly for the State of Miranda (2015–2019), representing the Democratic Unity Roundtable (the opposition’s electoral coalition) and the Justice First Party “Primero Justicia.”

Evan Ellis

Research Professor,
Latin American Studies, Strategic Studies Institute,
US Army War College

Evan Ellis is a research professor of Latin American studies at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, with a focus on the region’s relationships with China and other non-Western-hemisphere actors as well as transnational organized crime and populism in the region. Ellis previously served on the US secretary of state’s policy planning staff with responsibility for Latin America and the Caribbean as well as international narcotics and law enforcement issues. In his academic capacity, Ellis presented his work in a broad range of business and government fora in twenty-seven countries on four continents. He has given testimony on Latin American security issues to the US Congress on various occasions, has discussed his work regarding China and other external actors in Latin America on a broad range of radio and television programs, and is cited regularly in the print media in both the United States and Latin America for his work in this area. Ellis has also been awarded the Order of Military Merit José María Córdova by the Colombian government for his scholarship on security issues in the region.

Douglas Farah

President,
IBI Consultants

Douglas Farah is president of IBI Consultants and senior visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic Research at National Defense University. Farah specializes in field research and works as a consultant and subject-matter expert on security challenges, terrorism, and transnational organized crime in Latin America, both for the US government and the private sector. He has testified before the US Congress more than a dozen times as a subject-matter expert. Before consulting, Farah worked as a foreign correspondent and investigative reporter for The Washington Post and is the author of two critically acclaimed books: Blood From Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror (Doubleday, 2004) and Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible (co-authored by Stephen Braun, J. Wiley, 2007). He has also written dozens of articles and monographs in peer reviewed journals and the media.

Mariano Federici

Managing Director,
K2 Integrity;
Former Director,
Financial Intelligence Unit
,
Republic of Argentina

Mariano Federici is a managing director at K2 Integrity, resident in the firm’s Washington, DC office. He is a leading global expert in anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) and has more than twenty-five years of experience in government, international institutions, and the private sector. Mariano advises clients, including governments and financial institutions, on complex sanctions, regulatory compliance, fraud investigation, and risk management matters. He served as head of Argentina’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), during which time he held numerous international positions at global AML/CFT organizations, such as chair of the Egmont Group of FIUs; regional representative for the Americas at the Egmont Group; chair of the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) Forum of Heads of FIUs; co-chair of FATF’s Risks Trends and Methods Working Group; and co-chair of the Grupo de Acción Financiera de Latinoamerica Mutual Evaluations Working Group. Prior to his time at Argentina’s FIU, Mariano worked as senior counsel for the International Monetary Fund legal department and as regional advisor for the organization’s legal department in Latin America and the Caribbean. He holds a JD from the Catholic University of Argentina and an LLM from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Carrie Filipetti

Executive Director,
Vandenberg Coalition;
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cuba and Venezuela,
US Department of State

Carrie Filipetti currently serves as the executive director of the Vandenberg Coalition, a non-partisan network of foreign-policy scholars and practitioners who believe in the power of American leadership to protect US national security. Prior to this role, Filipetti served as deputy assistant secretary for Cuba and Venezuela in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and the deputy special representative for Venezuela at the US Department of State, for which she received a Superior Honor Award. From 2019 to 2020, Filipetti also served as the senior advisor to the Havana Incidents Task Force. Filipetti began her career in government as a senior policy advisor for the United States Mission to the United Nations, where she advised US Ambassador Nikki R. Haley on issues related to counterterrorism, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere. In her spare time, Filipetti volunteers as an emergency medical technician at a local fire department and serves on the board of Fired Up to Help, a local non-profit that provides hot meals to first responders in the aftermath of natural and man-made disasters.

Vera de Gyarfas

Partner,
Mayer Brown

Vera de Gyarfas is a partner in Mayer Brown’s Houston office and a member of the firm’s oil & gas industry group. She focuses her practice on transactions involving energy projects in Latin America and Africa. De Gyarfas represents companies engaged in all kinds of energy projects, handling negotiations of host government agreements as well as commercial agreements among companies in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. She represents companies in upstream exploration and production, liquefied natural gas, and other natural gas projects under all types of host government agreements, including production sharing agreements, concessions/licenses, and operating services agreements. She also advises companies with respect to power projects, generation, transmission, and distribution facilities, and advises petrochemical companies in developing specialized plants. De Gyarfas is fluent in Spanish, English, and Portuguese and is a frequent author and speaker on energy topics.

José Ignacio Hernández

Fellow,
Growth Lab, Center for International Development,
Harvard University;
Former Special Prosecutor,
Interim Government of Venezuela

José Ignacio Hernández is a fellow at the Growth Lab at Harvard University’s Center for International Development. He is a lawyer from the Catholic University Andrés Bello and an administrative law professor at the Andrés Bello Catholic University and the Central University of Venezuela. He is also an invited professor of the Castilla-La Mancha University in Madrid, as well as at other Latin American universities. With several papers and books published on administrative and constitutional law, Hernández has been recently focused on the rule of law, state capability, and development, particularly in Latin America. Between 2019 and 2020, he was the special attorney general of Venezuela. He received a PhD from the Complutense University of Madrid.

Tamara Herrera

Managing Director and Chief Economist,
Síntesis Financiera

Tamara Herrera is managing director and chief economist of Síntesis Financiera, a Caracas-based consulting firm, and a member of GlobalSource Partners, a global network of independent emerging market economists. She joined Síntesis Financiera in 1976 and spearheaded its integral approach to country-risk analysis, with a comprehensive focus on politics and policy, ranked as one of the most authoritative sources in Venezuela. She earned her economics degree from Universidad Central de Venezuela.

Joseph Humire

Executive Director,
Center for a Secure Free Society

Joseph M. Humire is the executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society—a national-security think tank based in Washington, DC—and an Atlantic Council author. Humire specializes in analyzing trans-regional threat networks in the Western hemisphere and provides regular briefings to the US Defense Department and other government agencies as a subject-matter expert. He has testified six times before the US Congress on a variety of national security topics, including Iran and Hezbollah’s presence in Latin America and is the co-author of the book Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America (Lexington Books, 2014). Humire has also served as an expert witness to terrorism trials in South America and is a regular national security commentator on major Spanish language media. He previously served in the US Marine Corps with a deployment to Iraq and the Middle East, as well as to Latin America and the Caribbean as part of a multinational training exercise.

Leopoldo Martínez 

Founder and CEO,
Center for Democracy and Development in the Americas;
Former Deputy,
Venezuela National Assembly

Leopoldo Martínez is the founder of the Center for Democracy and Development in the Americas and serves as executive editor of IQ Latino. He is a Venezuelan-American lawyer, expert of global trends, and former congressman of the National Assembly of Venezuela. He is also a member of the Democratic National Committee and chair of the National Committee of Latino Victory Project. He is a writer for various media outlets in Latin America, the United States, and Spain.

Francisco Monaldi

Director and Fellow,
Latin America Initiative, Baker Institute for Public Policy,
Rice University

Francisco Monaldi is a fellow in Latin American energy policy at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, where he is also director of the Latin America Initiative. He is a leading scholar on the politics and economics of the oil industry and oil wealth management in Latin America and developing countries, and has consulted for numerous international institutions, governments, and companies. Monaldi is the founding director and a professor at the Center for Energy and the Environment at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración in Venezuela. He is on the board of directors of Mercantil, Venezuela’s leading financial group, and other Venezuelan companies and institutions. He holds a PhD from Stanford University.

Luisa Palacios

Senior Research Scholar,
Center on Global Energy Policy
School of International and Public Affairs

Columbia University;
Former Chairwoman,
Board of Directors

CITGO

Luisa Palacios is a senior research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy. She comes to the center after a multidisciplinary career in the intersection of energy, finance and policy. In March 2021, she completed a two-year period in the Board of Directors of Houston-based Citgo Petroleum Corporation, the 5th-largest independent U.S. refiner during most of which she served as Chairwoman. As Citgo’s first-ever chairwoman, Palacios also shaped efforts to strengthen corporate governance, ethics, and social responsibility, including the publication of the company’s first-ever ESG report. Before her time at Citgo, Palacios was a Senior Managing Director and member of the management committee of Medley Global Advisors, a macro policy research firm. She headed Medley’s Latin America and later the firm’s emerging market research efforts. She previously worked at Barclays Capital as a Director in the emerging markets research department, and as an economist in the risk department at Société Générale in Paris. She also worked as a senior economist at the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and was a consultant in the Office of the Chief Economist for Latin America at the World Bank.

She graduated from Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas, Venezuela; received a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs; and obtained a Ph.D. in international affairs from The John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies where she wrote her dissertation on Latin America’s national oil companies. She was a visiting Ph.D. student at Sciences Po in Paris, France and taught Latin American history at Johns Hopkins SAIS in both Washington and Bologna. She has also served as a non-resident fellow at CGEP and as a visiting researcher at the Center for Energy and Environment of the Caracas-based IESA School of Management. Dr. Palacios is a regular speaker on Latin American energy, political, and debt issues.

Roberto Patiño

Founder,
Mi Convive and Alimenta La Solidaridad;
Millennial Leadership Fellow,
Atlantic Council

Roberto Patiño is the founder of the non-governmental organizations Mi Convive and Alimenta La Solidaridad that work in 216 vulnerable communities empowering over four thousand women volunteers to feed 14,500 children daily and reduce violence in hot spots. He is a Venezuelan democracy and human-rights activist. Patiño is an expert in citizen security, negotiation, and conflict resolution. He is a former leader of the 2007 Venezuelan student movement. He holds a master’s in public policy from Harvard University and a BS in manufacturing engineering from Universidad Simon Bolivar. He currently resides in Caracas, Venezuela.

Miguel Pizarro

Presidential Commissioner to the United Nations and Humanitarian Aid,
Interim Government of Venezuela

Miguel Pizarro is the commissioner to the United Nations Organization and commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, appointed by the interim government of Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó in 2019. He is a deputy of the legitimate National Assembly of Venezuela. While serving as deputy, he was appointed president of the Permanent Committee for Integral Social Development of the National Assembly on two occasions and focused on the promotion of laws that would benefit vulnerable communities such as children, women, the elderly, and people with conditions such as HIV/AIDS or special conditions such as autism spectrum disorder. As commissioner to the United Nations, he has held bilateral meetings with diplomatic missions and government representatives and has participated in important events on behalf of the interim government, such as the United Nations General Assembly, sessions of the Human Rights Council, parallel events, and forums carried out by political centers of international relevance, to raise awareness on behalf of the victims of human-rights violations in Venezuela and in favor of humanitarian aid for Venezuelans within and outside Venezuela’s borders.

John Polga-Hecimovich

Assistant Professor of Political Science,
US Naval Academy

John Polga-Hecimovich is an assistant professor of political science at the US Naval Academy and an associate researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Ecuador (FLASCO-Ecuador). He holds a PhD in political science from the University of Pittsburgh, a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Ecuador, and a BA in government and Spanish from Dartmouth College. He has taught political science at Wake Forest University, the College of William and Mary, and FLACSO-Ecuador, and has conducted academic fieldwork in Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia. His research is broadly focused on the effects of political institutions on democratic stability, policymaking, and governance, especially in Latin America. He has published peer-reviewed articles in top academic journals in the United States, United Kingdom, and Latin America, and book chapters in both English and Spanish.

Celina Realuyo

Professor of Practice,
William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies,
National Defense University

Celina Realuyo is professor of practice at the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University where she focuses on US national security, illicit networks, transnational organized crime, counterterrorism, and threat finance issues in the Americas. As a former US diplomat, international banker with Goldman Sachs, US counterterrorism official, and professor of international security affairs at the National Defense, Georgetown, George Washington, and Joint Special Operations Universities, Realuyo has over two decades of international experience in the public, private, and academic sectors. Realuyo is a regular commentator in the international media, including on CNN en Español, Deutsche Welle, Foreign Policy, Reuters, Cipher Brief, and Univision and has testified before Congress on national security, terrorism, and crime issues.

Feliciano Reyna

Founder and Executive President,
Acción Solidaria

Feliciano Reyna is the founder and executive president for Acción Solidaria, an HIV/AIDS service organization created in 1995. Since 2016, he has also served as coordinator for relief efforts through the organization’s Humanitarian Action Program, focused on the complex humanitarian emergency affecting Venezuela. Since 2002, he has been a fellow with Ashoka, a global network of entrepreneurs. Between 2005 and 2012, he was president of Sinergia, the Venezuelan Association of Civil Society Organizations. In addition to Acción Solidaria, Reyna has founded a number of other human rights organizations. In 2003, together with other health-rights activists, Reyna helped create the Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Health and Right to Life to promote and defend the rights of people with chronic health conditions. In March 2010, Reyna helped found CIVILIS Human Rights to document and inform on the state of democracy and human rights in Venezuela.  Reyna is a board member of the International Center for Non-Profit Law and was a board member at the Johannesburg-based Global Alliance for Citizen Participation between 2010 and 2016.

Erika Rodríguez

Professor and Associate Researcher,
Complutense University;
Coordinator, Latin American Studies,
Fundación Alternativas 

Erika Rodríguez is a professor at the Complutense University of Madrid. She is also an associate researcher for the Complutence Institute of International Studies and coordinator of Latin American studies at the Spanish think tank Fundación Alternativas. Her professional career includes a long experience as an international consultant, evaluating international projects and public policies in Latin American countries. She has also advised international organizations and governments. From 2016 to 2019, she was a member of the Madrid City Council, as spokesperson at the Economic and Taxation Commission and as vice president of the Equity and Social Services Commission. She has conducted research in various fields, such as international politics, Latin American studies, and security and development. Her papers and articles have been published in different international journals and books. Additionally, she is a regular analyst on television, radio, and print media. In 2018, she was recognized by Bogota’s City Council Medal for her work on advancing female leadership, and in 2019, she was awarded as one of the ten most relevant Colombian citizens in Spain. She earned a PhD in political science at the Autonomous University of Madrid.

José Luis Saboin

Economist,
Andean Countries Department,
Inter-American Development Bank

José Luis Saboin, a Venezuelan national, works as a consultant in the Andean Countries Department of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Prior to this experience, he worked as a researcher for Venezuela, also at the IDB. Saboin has worked as a macroeconomic research analyst for the Western Hemisphere Department at the International Monetary Fund and was a senior economist at Ecoanalítica, where he was also a consultant for the Corporacion Andina de Fomento­–Banco de Desarrollo. He has held research positions at Columbia University and Bank of America. His work and research have focused on studying the macroeconomic, social, and business environments of Latin American countries, as well as their development challenges. This experience has led him to specialize in topics such as exchange rate regimes, hyperinflation, stabilization, the economics of natural resources, and development. Saboin is pursuing a PhD in economics at George Mason University, holds a master’s degree in economic policy management from Columbia University (2014) and has an economist degree from Andrés Bello Catholic University (2010).

David Smolansky

Secretary General Envoy for Venezuelan Migration and Refugee Crisis,
Organization of American States

David Smolansky is the Secretary General Envoy for Venezuelan Migration and Refugee Crisis at the Organization of American States. He is the former mayor of El Hatillo municipality in Caracas, Venezuela. He is currently living in exile and is a visiting scholar at Georgetown University. Smolansky was removed from office by the Maduro administration, disqualified from any public administration role, and has a warrant out for his arrest. He was forced to flee from Venezuela after 35 days in hiding, in which he faced more than 35 checkpoints until he finally reached Brazil. Smolansky is one of the best-known young Venezuelan politicians and was a vital member of the student movement that defeated Hugo Chávez’s constitutional reform proposal in 2007. Elected as the youngest mayor in Venezuela, his administration decreased kidnapping rates in El Hatillo, making the municipality one of the most secure and transparent in the country. Smolansky is also a founding member and deputy secretary general of Voluntad Popular, one of the main opposition political parties led by Leopoldo López. In 2015, he was recognized by Junior Chamber International as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World. Smolansky also received the Global Impact Award from Georgetown University in 2018. A journalism graduate from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, he holds a master’s degree in political science from the Universidad Simón Bolívar and participated in the Global Competitiveness Leadership Program at Georgetown University.

Patricia Ventura

Director,
Regional Public Affairs and Government Relations,
IPD Latin America

Patricia Ventura Nicolas oversees IPD Latin America’s regional public affairs and government relations services. She has worked in the Venezuelan energy sector for twenty years. She regularly leads tactical workshops and studies related to country risk, institutional relations strategy, and corporate positioning, as well as legislative and regulatory concerns. Ventura has extensive experience working with numerous Venezuelan government sectors, including the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, Finance Ministry, Foreign Ministry, and the National Assembly. She is the project leader for IPD’s international stakeholder management and country risk services. She is a Chevening scholar and a professor of petroleum policy in the Petroleum Law Program at the Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas. Prior to joining IPD in 2005, Nicolas was a journalist covering international and domestic energy issues. She won the Citigroup Award for Excellence in Journalism for her work with the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal. Ventura has also worked with Dow Jones Newswire and the newspaper El Diario de Caracas. She has extensive experience covering domestic and international energy issues. Ventura graduated from the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas with a bachelor’s degree in social communication. She also holds a master’s degree in law with a focus on petroleum law and policy from the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law & Policy at the University of Dundee in Scotland.

Venezuela Working Group Coordinators

The Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center broadens understanding of regional transformations through high-impact work that shapes the conversation among policymakers, the business community, and civil society. The Center focuses on Latin America’s strategic role in a global context with a priority on pressing political, economic, and social issues that will define the trajectory of the region now and in the years ahead. Select lines of programming include: Venezuela’s crisis; Mexico-US and global ties; China in Latin America; Colombia’s future; a changing Brazil; Central America’s trajectory; Caribbean development; commercial patterns shifts; energy resources; and disinformation.

Photo Credit: Martin Falbisoner