Hoping for the best from Venezuela talks

Hoping for the best from Venezuela talks

Friday, August 02, 2019

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News that representatives for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Opposition Leader Juan Guaido reopened talks in Barbados on Wednesday to resolve that country's political crisis is indeed encouraging.

For, as we have repeatedly argued in this space, the crisis in Venezuela needs to be settled by dialogue instead of force.

An Agence France Presse ( AFP) report in today's Jamaica Observer tells us that three weeks ago, during previous talks in Barbados, the rival factions agreed to set up a platform for negotiations mediated by Norway, where the first talks were held in May.

“We've started another round of meetings under the Oslo mechanism,” Mr Guaido's envoy and legislator Mr Stalin Gonzalez tweeted.

The AFP report also said that Venezuela's Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez confirmed in a news conference that President Maduro's representatives had travelled to Barbados to meet the Opposition.

Mr Maduro, we are told, also stated in a televised address that his ruling party aims to establish a “platform of permanent dialogue” with the Opposition, and proposed bringing in businessmen and social movements.

That, at least, is an improvement on his previous position, and one to which he should be held to account by Venezuelans and the international community.

For Mr Maduro has shown that he has dictatorial tendencies and is intolerant of dissent. Those are qualities that do not qualify him to lead a country.

In Mr Guaido's case, while we admire his passion, we cannot support his grab for political power with his claim of being interim president of Venezuela.

We note, from another AFP report published today, that Mr Guaido's ability to attract massive crowds of supporters to his street protests has basically waned. According to the report, on July 23, six months after Mr Guaido launched his bold challenge to unseat Mr Maduro, fewer than 1,000 people turned up to a special event in downtown Caracas.

Political scientist Mr Luis Salamanca told AFP that Mr Guaido's movement has gone cold. “You don't feel an irreversible change is on the way,” he said, adding that “amidst this uncertainty a denouement can come at any time”.

That suggests to us that Venezuelans opposed to Mr Maduro's presidency are now more concerned about their daily existence, given the deep recession, shortages of food and medicine, as well as the plunge in efficiency in public services.

The United Nations has said that approximately a quarter of Venezuela's 30-million-strong population are in need of aid, while 3.3 million people have left the country since the start of 2016.

Interestingly, Mr Maduro is reported to have finally accepted aid from the Red Cross in April after long denying there was a crisis in the country.

Mr Guaido has said he will only accept a new presidential election, while Mr Maduro has countered that he will only bring forward the legislative polls, which are now scheduled for next year.

This situation simply cannot be allowed to continue. That is why the mediation talks are important and will hopefully arrive at a consensus on the way forward.

The Venezuelan people deserve nothing less.

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