By Mision Verdad – Jul 27, 2021
President Nicolás Maduro Moros recently stated that he is “ready” and willing to engage in a new round of talks and agreements with the Venezuelan opposition, this time to be held in Mexico.
President Maduro explained that preparations for holding a dialogue are advancing with the mediation of Mexico and other governments. “We are ready to set off for Mexico: the Bolivarian government delegation and the opposition delegates,” said the president. “I hope that, in August, a dialogue, a negotiation of peace and reconciliation with the oppositions, can be carried out in Mexico, with the support of Norway and several other governments [including the United States].”
Chavismo and “the oppositions”
The Venezuelan president is not the first person to indicate the possibility of a meeting in August. Citing undisclosed sources, Reuters had already published in early July, as an exclusive, the news that Chavismo and the opposition would be meeting in Mexico in August.
However, there is a significant discrepancy between what was stated by Reuters and what was said by President Maduro. While the US media referred to a meeting only between Chavismo and the opposition sector represented by former deputy Juan Guaidó, President Maduro has stated that all “the oppositions” have been asked to participate in the dialogue.
This discrepancy is not a minor detail, considering that important sectors of the national opposition, which are not aligned with Guaidó, have struggled, since 2019, to gain recognition as political opposition, despite their detachment from Guaidó’s “sectarianism” and from his methods of applying pressure against Venezuela, such as the economic blockade that has immensely harmed the entire population, or the calls for a foreign military intervention of the country.
The internal divisions in the Venezuelan opposition and their conflicts have also been reflected overseas, because, thanks to US sponsorship, Juan Guaidó and his entourage were recognized by the European Union (EU) and the Lima Group as the only opposition, while other non-abstentionist anti-Chavista sectors, which are averse to the G4 [extreme right four parties coalition supporting former deputy Guaido], were branded “collaborationists.”
That situation will change when these opposition groups, which are not aligned with Guaidó, sit down to negotiate in Mexico. Bernabé Gutiérrez has said that the “democratic opposition” will appoint Luis Eduardo Martínez from Acción Democrática (AD) and Timoteo Zambrano from Cambiemos as part of the dialogue commission present in Mexico.
The US will sit “beside Guaidó”
Negotiations in Mexico face the difficult challenge of not ending up truncated, as it already happened in Guaidó’s previous negotiations with Chavismo, also mediated by Norway, held in Barbados in 2019; and also towards the beginning of 2018, in the Dominican Republic, when, just before signing an agreement, the opposition withdrew from the negotiation, under the order of the US, and the G4 ended up not participating in the presidential elections held that year, elections that were held at the opposition’s request during the Dominican Republic talks.
In both these failed negotiations, Chavismo denounced the US government for preventing the Venezuelan parties from reaching reasonable agreements.
The United States recently assured that it will sit with opposition “leader” Juan Guaidó at the negotiating table. Or at least that is what Juan González, National Security Council Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, pointed out in an interview with Mega TV, reviewed by Infobae.
“If both sides sit at the table, we want to make it clear that we are on the side of unity led by Juan Guaidó,” assured González. “That is the side where we are going to be, and we are going to act based on any concrete act that leads to assuring democratic steps so that Venezuelans are also the ones who can determine their own future.”
González confirmed that Joe Biden’s government is willing to act in the event that negotiations between the opposition and Chavismo are resumed, and insisted that he believes that a negotiated and peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela is possible.
The high level of US interference in Venezuelan affairs is expressed through the de facto mobility of the Venezuelan opponents who make up Guaidó’s entourage.
So far there has been no clarity, or at least any official response, regarding the formal, face-to-face direct participation the US in the talks in Mexico. However, due to the clear control that the US exercises over Guaidó, it is clear that he will not arrive in Mexico without their approval and will also be remotely controlled during the talks.
In the event that the US government does not participate directly, it is clear that what should be a negotiation between Venezuelans will in fact be a negotiation between Chavismo and an extension of the US government represented by some Venezuelans, and that responds to the real factors and interests behind the actual meeting.
The overall picture and context in which Chavismo will engage in these discussions is clearly complex.
If the presence of several “oppositions” in Mexico is confirmed, the Bolivarian government will have to face both Venezuelan anti-Chavismo, and the US government itself (either directly or indirectly). It will also face the participating mediations, including that of Norway and the EU, the latter having previously opposed Venezuelan institutions and fiercely applied an economic blockade against the country, along the lines of the US itself.
However, far from being overwhelmed, Chavismo itself has been the one that has encouraged these negotiations the most, and has been the political faction that, concretely speaking, has had to promote agreements in various settings, meeting separately and behind the scenes with several oppositions factions of the country, while, at the same time, creating bridges with the United States and the EU.
The preconditions and demands
Chavismo has proposed several preconditions or demands. Basically, these are: a rejection of the unilateral coercive measures that have eroded the Venezuelan economy; a commitment to abandon paths of violence by certain sectors of the Venezuelan opposition; and the recognition of the public institutions, including the current National Assembly (AN), which, through behind-the-scenes agreements between the ruling party and the opposition, has renewed the National Electoral Council (CNE) that is going to organize the upcoming regional and municipal mega-elections.
The US sponsored opposition, on the other hand, through a so-called “National Salvation Agreement,” has proposed a route of “free and fair elections,” including that of political positions in an extemporaneous manner and outside the constitutional period, as is the case of AN deputies and also presidential elections. This has been proposed in exchange for the “possibility” that “the international community” would withdraw the “sanctions” imposed on Venezuela, according to Guaidó.
At a first glance, these diametrically opposed “demands” suggest that the meeting in Mexico is doomed to be another failed encounter; however, an early alert at such a failure could bring the possibility that some sectors may de-escalate, given that it would not make sense for either party to sit down in Mexico only to leave empty-handed.
Indeed, in a negotiation setting such as this, much could be achieved. This is what President Maduro has hinted at: “Our demand is that all sanctions against Venezuela be lifted; we have the right to our own economic, commercial and financial freedom.”
In reference to the negotiation progress so far, Maduro added that “on a scale of one to ten, we have reached nine. We hope that in the next few days a final agreement will be reached.”
The push towards a dialogue in Mexico comes at a conjuncture of some political positions that have suffered wear and tear.
Guaidó’s “interim government,” despite ongoing (but distant) US support, did not prosper as a strategy for dismantling Chavismo; rather it has greatly lost its political base in the country and institutional support abroad.
The economic pressures, exerted by the blockade, have fallen harshly on the Venezuelan population, but they did not generate a great commotion or social outbreak, nor have they generated the fall of Chavismo from power. Instead, implementing numerous economic reforms, Chavismo has managed to maneuver in dire circumstances, to the point that some economic analysts, such as those of the International Finance Institute (IIF) and the Andrés Bello Catholic University (UCAB), have predicted that the Venezuelan economy could grow (or at least get close to something like growth) this year, for the first time in years.
In addition, Venezuela has frustrated numerous assassination attempts, mercenary incursions and classic military coups that have been organized by the Venezuelan opposition, with support from Colombia and the United States. Hence, the forceful “solutions” in Venezuela have not been an easy task at all.
Within Venezuela, internal politics have advanced without Guaidó and without some of the leaders and parties that backed him. In fact, parties such as Acción Democrática (a member of the G4) have diverged from the electoral abstentionism and political paralysis promoted by Guaidó, who was instrumental in creating the “dictatorship” narrative about the government of the country. In this sense, a real loss of political spaces have been experienced by the abstentionist opposition and its strategy has become more unsustainable and unfeasible within the domestic political scene.
Moreover, in strictly overseas political terms, the arrangement of these new negotiations comes at a crossroads for the so-called “international community”: either a turning point or a continuation of its Venezuela strategy, which is also showing signs of exhaustion that have translated into political costs (and even economic ones). This is particularly true for the United States and Europe, where there are now increasingly growing sectors that have manifested a breakdown of the consensus around the blockade and the aggressions against Venezuela.
All these changes in conditions may imply the possibility of new results in Mexico, if the expected parties finally do show up. That remains to be seen.
Featured image: Chavismo and the opposition will return to a new round of dialogues and negotiations in Mexico. Photo: Juan Barreto / AFP
Translation: Orinoco Tribune