What to expect from Venezuela’s negotiations – Sylvia Colombo

Since last Friday (13), the Venezuelan dictatorship and opposition have been discussing in Mexico City, with Norway as mediator. The delegation representing the regime is led by Jorge Rodríguez, one of the most powerful men in Chavismo, a former deputy for Chávez and now president of the National Assembly. The one who brings together the interests of the opposition is led by Gerardo Blyde, a former deputy who now heads the anti-Chavista coalition Mesa da Unidad Democrática. They will have 180 days to reach an agreement that can lift Venezuela out of the economic, political and humanitarian crisis in which it finds itself.

If they do not succeed, they will fail, like the other six attempts at dialogue that have existed since 2014. Due to the failure of the previous ones, the population sees the attempt with a certain apathy, aggravated by the increase in cases. of coronavirus. in the country and by extremely high inflation, which makes the problems to be solved even more urgent.

So what can you expect from the table that will debate Venezuela’s future in Mexico?

There is a certain infatuation with the idea that the dictatorship has agreed to speak. Even if some more radical sectors of the opposition, such as Vente Venezuela, by María Corina Machado, believe that there is nothing more to be said with a regime which did not respect previous agreements or which simply left the mid-term negotiations.

A little less pessimistic are Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López, who believe that the dictatorship is worn out, more isolated and with less popular support. However, they consider that it is not possible to reach a partial agreement and that all the demands of the opposition must be accepted. Otherwise, the negotiation should be abandoned.

On Friday, the two sides reached an eight-point memo for discussion. Maybe the number of items is already a problem. It seems much more difficult to reach agreement on eight points, themselves somewhat elusive and subjective.

These are: political rights for all, electoral guarantees for all and an election calendar with international observation, the lifting of sanctions and the re-establishment of property rights, respect for the rule of constitutional law, the renunciation of violence and reparation for victims of violence, protection of the economy, national and social protection measures for the Venezuelan people. To this, the opposition also added the need for guarantees of implementation with the participation of the international community and a greater distribution of vaccines against the coronavirus.

The most important underlying problem is that Maduro has a lot more to offer than the opposition, which is deflated and divided. What Chavismo wants most is an end to economic sanctions, which are in fact harming the regime’s leaders, and for his mandate to be recognized as legitimate by the international community.

However, there is no indication that they are ready to offer what the opposition wants most: free elections for the president, with a new national electoral board and a guarantee that it will not be a process. fraudulent like the previous ones. It’s hard to imagine that at this point Maduro is promising anything different than what he has promised before. In previous negotiations, the dictator had asserted that the 2018 elections would be free and fair. They weren’t, and he won with fraud.

Lifting economic sanctions without guaranteeing them would guarantee the flow of money the regime needs to stay in power indefinitely. It is therefore the most important negotiation. Who will give in first on these two points: free election and sanctions.

The others seem less complicated to reach. It is nothing new that the regime is using political prisoners as bargaining chips to contain and control opposition and social mood. On Sunday evening, for example, he released Freddy Guevara, Guaidó’s right-hand man, to show goodwill and to participate in the negotiations. Other rejections took place during the conversations to install this table. It does not seem difficult to negotiate each of the cases of the hundreds of political prisoners of the regime. Another problem will be to bring cases of extrajudicial executions and human rights violations against opponents to trial.

It should also be easier to deal more urgently and on both sides with the arrival of humanitarian aid in the country. If it was necessary before, when a major attempt in Cúcuta, on the Colombia-Venezuela border, failed in February 2020, now it is much more.

In addition to vaccine donation agreements involving the international community, it is also necessary that food and medicine reach the most vulnerable populations. It is a solution for migrants, both those in other countries in precarious situations, and those who try to return, thus exposing themselves to situations of violence and abuse.

If of all the agreements, this last point is the only one to succeed, it will have already been worth something, because it is the most urgent.

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