Meeting on Venezuela: with extras but without main faces


© REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

The conference in Colombia seemed to be a one-sided game: Biden and Borrell are demanding "free" elections from Maduro.

Unsuccessful "president" of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Juan Gerardo Guaido Marquez could not think of anything better than to illegally cross the border of Colombia through "the drug road" using "hitchhiking" to the capital Bogota and try to get into the mansion of the Colombian Foreign Ministry, Palacio San Carlos. He reached only the front door, where the international meeting participants had entered, and remained outside the gate - he was not expected, he was not called, and he was not wanted to be seen or heard. On the same day, the Colombian authorities escorted Guaido to El Dorado airport and sent him on the first flight to Miami (USA). No one, not even his supporters, met the "main Venezuelan opposition leader" there. And this was, perhaps, the first result of the "International Conference on the Political Process in Venezuela»

The conference on Venezuela, attended by diplomats from 19 countries of the two Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and joined by Josep Borrell, head of EU diplomacy, was already fated to discuss relations between the United States and the Bolivarian Republic without first persons.

The organizer and peacemaker was Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who was forgiven by the White House for his "childhood disease of leftism." Petro gave up his "revolutionary activities" a long time ago and embraced the ideas of democracy, which opened to him the way to big politics. On his third attempt, he became president of Colombia in 2022 and turned his eyes to the "democratization" of neighboring Venezuela in the area of foreign policy.

In March 2023, Petro met for the third time with Maduro, who discussed the idea of holding an international meeting on Venezuela. Although Maduro considered it a "risky game," he wished his colleague "the greatest success," stressing that the international conference was meant to ensure "respect for the sovereignty, independence and self-determination of Venezuela and its people" and should aim to remove all sanctions "without any conditions."

Then, in April, Petro was received by U.S. President Joe Biden, with whom he also discussed his "peacekeeping idea of greater American democracy" in South America in general and in Venezuela in particular, and, having received a "blessing", was personally instructed by the owner of the Oval Office. The U.S. decided not to send Blinken, head of the State Department, to Bogota, but to send professional international problem solvers, headed by Jon Finer, deputy national security advisor of the U.S. president.

Finally, three days before the international conference, the Colombian government gathered the Venezuelan opposition in Bogota. The Democratic Unitarian Platform coalition supported the meeting, although some factions questioned Colombia's role as a mediator.

"The International Conference on the Political Process in Venezuela" lasted five hours and ended with a two-minute communiqué read by Colombian Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva, which the Latin American press described as "a caffeine-free drink."

The conclusion of the communiqué boils down to three points agreed upon by the participants. First, to establish a timetable that would allow the holding of "free, transparent and with full guarantees for all Venezuelan actors" elections.

Second, the lifting of certain sanctions against Venezuela is carried out depending on the "steps to democratize society."

Third, the participants supported the continuation of the negotiation process between the Chavistas in power and the opposition, with the assistance of the Kingdom of Norway in Mexico.

Since coming to power in 2013, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly called for dialogue with the opposition, most recently last November in Mexico, mentioned in the communiqué. At that time, it was about accelerating the implementation of a single trust fund for social investment in Venezuela. The government and the "Democratic Unitarian Platform" reached a detailed agreement to unfreeze 3 billion 200 million dollars and send it through the UN for social facilities: schools, hospitals, power grids and other essential infrastructure.

So who is stopping it?

Washington. Venezuela's frozen assets stolen abroad, including gold, accounts, are confiscated by Britain, the United States, Portugal, Germany and the International Monetary Fund.

Alvaro Leyva, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, said that all countries participating in the international meeting agreed on "the need to establish an electoral timetable that allows free, transparent elections and with full guarantees for all Venezuelan actors." And the steps related to the lifting of various sanctions depend on it. Moreover, without specifying whether this refers to economic sanctions that put pressure on the population, or to some personal sanctions against government representatives.

According to Delcy Rodriguez, executive vice president of Venezuela, 60 percent of the total sanctions imposed on Venezuela come from the United States government, the other 40 percent from Washington's allies, mostly European countries.

The U.S. delegation, which participated in the international meeting on Venezuela, clearly stated its position with regard to the lifting of sanctions: it is a "step-by-step" approach. That is, the decision on each sanction will depend on the "progress made in the restoration of democracy in the form of free and fair elections."

"We are more than willing to ease and eventually end our sanctions pressure, but it will require concrete and meaningful steps and, finally, a free and fair election," said White House official Jon Finer. Josep Borrell was equally frank: "The European Union is even willing to reconsider the personal sanctions against senior officials of the 'Chavista' regime, because these sanctions are not meant to last forever, they are designed to advance the process of democratic normalization in Venezuela." Incidentally, one sanction turned out to be non-permanent; last year, Washington eased oil sanctions against Venezuela.

This was not based on "love and compassion" for the Venezuelan people or the opposition. Europe's economy was shaken as oil and gas futures skyrocketed, and the U.S. (a net energy exporter) was forced to open its own strategic reserves to prevent a negative reaction from its own population. Biden needed more black gold. And because Venezuela is historically an energy supplier country, with such close proximity to America, the most aggressive attempts at imperial intervention to forcibly remove Maduro failed.

However, the de facto trade embargo has made life even more desperate for ordinary Venezuelans. Despite this grim picture, Venezuela has survived thanks to the support of Russia and some other countries.

A few hours after the international conference in Bogota, the Venezuelan government issued a statement saying that it "takes note" of the consensus reached at the Bogota conference, reiterating the "urgent need" to lift "any and all" sanctions imposed and to return assets blocked abroad.

All this gave reason to the Spanish newspaper El Pais and the Latin American press to conclude that the "low performance" did not meet the "expectations" of the participants and observers of the meeting in Colombia. Nevertheless, there was a result. The "ball" given to Colombian President Petro in the Oval Office of the White House was thrown to Nicolás Maduro: "If you want international sanctions against your government to be lifted, accept solutions that lead to democratization in the American way."

It is also too early to talk about the "death" of the Monroe Doctrine. It remains the cornerstone of US relations with Latin America. But, as the Colombian conference showed, its methods will change, adapting to the new conditions of the "pink tide" and the more active invasion of the Chinese dragon and the Russian bear.

"The history of Latin America is in our hands," said President Petro. Washington will have to deal with it.

"This conference raises great expectations. Sometimes when there are great expectations and hopes, they can lead to great disappointments. America cannot be a space of sanctions, it must be a space of freedoms and democracy," were Petro's words, which cannot be argued with. As they say in Latin America, "chicken with rice from the chicken" is the whole point.