The dialogue between Nicolas Maduro’s government and the Venezuelan opposition has fractured – momentarily or permanently. Events confirm that for Maduro talks with the opposition aren’t a priority.
HAVANA TIMES – The withdrawal of the official Venezuelan delegation from the negotiation table demonstrates the fragility of the conciliation. The dialogue, with Norway as mediator, has been going on for several months in Mexico. The fragility is primarily on the part of the Venezuelan government itself, since the opposition group at the head of negotiations is more clearly committed to the process. That group has been rejected by other opposition leaders, who detest any attempts to reach an understanding with the government of Nicolas Maduro. However, those who opt to negotiate feel they have very little to lose and cling to the possibility of conversations.
Maduro’s government has used the negotiation to pursue a specific objective. The dialogue can help Venezuela achieve a softening of the sanctions levied by the United States and project an image of moderation in the European Union or in Latin America. That could be seen during September’s Celac [Community of Latin America and Caribbean States] summit in Mexico City. The government of Andres Lopez Obrador in Mexico views the dialogue as a card that allows Lopez Obrador to justify not isolating Venezuela from the Latin American and Caribbean Community.
During this prolonged exchange, whose results will only become visible in the next elections, Maduro hasn’t moderated his daily discourse of criminalization and stigmatization of the opposition as a bloc. He’s continued taking repressive measures against some of its leaders. Those aggressive movements seek to stretch the negotiation process to its limits, and leave it permanently unstable. However, up until now they haven’t succeeded in achieving an abandonment of the table.
The government’s withdrawal uses the pretext of the predictable extradition of Alex Saab from Cabo Verde to the United States, a process that was ordered months ago. Saab is a Colombian businessman who for years has operated businesses for the Venezuelan State. Like other collaborators and former functionaries of the governments of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, he’s in the process of being arraigned by judges in the US, where prosecutors have opened charges of money laundering and other illicit activities.
Just a month ago, Maduro attempted to protect Saab from extradition by appointing him a member of the delegation that’s negotiating in Mexico. The decision was obviously a game of symbolic pressure, since Saab has been detained in Cabo Verde since June, and couldn’t travel to Mexico. The unusual appointment was yet one more indication of the Maduro government’s feeble commitment to the dialogue process. It revealed his intention to utilize the talks to achieve his objectives in improving bilateral relations with the US.
The fracturing of the dialogue, be it momentary or permanent, confirms that for Nicolas Maduro’s government a dialogue with the opposition isn’t a priority. Deep down, they still consider the opposition illegitimate, and they don’t really believe that anything needs correcting in the Venezuelan political and electoral system. As in Cuba or Nicaragua, that system is officially seen as “perfect”. Any dialogue is subordinated to efforts to control the geopolitical tension or distension with the United States. If it fails to advance that objective, in their view it’s better to dissolve it.
*Originally published in La Razón.