On August 13, a new negotiation process between the government and the Venezuelan opposition began in Mexico. This would be the fifth negotiation process since 2014 and the second that takes place under the leadership of the Chancellery of the Kingdom of Norway. The memory of the fruitless meetings at that time in Caracas, Oslo, Santo Domingo and later Barbados are still fresh in the collective memory of the country.
The new instance of political meeting demonstrates the magnitude of the deliberate and systematic destruction of Venezuela. The hegemonic control of public institutions, the blocking of elections, the persecution, arrest and harassment of parties, political activists, union members and other forms of political dissent are the main characteristics of the Venezuelan political environment.
On this occasion, the Maduro regime is much more needy and the diplomatic and financial encirclement, it seems, is doing damage. Internal tensions were in evidence in the recent internal elections, ahead of the regional elections to be held later this year, which would be evidence that the narrative about political self-sufficiency could be reaching its limits.
What’s new in the 2021 Mexico negotiations?
Unlike previous negotiations, in this one, the seven agenda items were open to the public: political rights for all; electoral guarantees and electoral calendar; lifting of sanctions and return of assets held abroad; respect for the constitutional rule of law; political coexistence, renunciation of violence and reparation for victims of violence; protection of the national economy and social protection measures; guarantees of implementation, monitoring and verification of what was agreed. This agenda, as in the previous round, maintains the principle that “nothing is agreed until everything is”.
In this framework, the communication between the parties is particularly noteworthy. For the government delegation, the opposition is no longer a “terrorist and destabilizing” group. Although for part of the opposition delegation, the Maduro regime is “the government”. This seemed to glimpse the end of the duality of governments, although it does not necessarily represent the end of diplomatic support from more than 50 countries around the world for the leadership of Juan Guaidó and other opposition leaders. As the opposition delegate Gerardo Blyde himself acknowledged, “each party had to give up part of its narrative to reach a middle ground.”
Existential negotiation for Venezuela and its politicians
The erosion of Venezuelan political leadership, on both sides of the table, is by now undeniable. After the questionable parliamentary elections of 2019, the political disaffection of the citizens increased in proportion to the worsening of the humanitarian crisis that the country is suffering inside and outside its borders. Between the government’s precariousness in managing the pandemic, the political fragmentation of the opposition and the lack of agreements for humanitarian aid to reach its destination, discredit and hopelessness cut across the entire political spectrum.
In this sense, the need for an agreement is necessary for Venezuelans, but also for the battered political class as both sides of the table need to revitalize their legitimacy.
Another aspect is the effect that the eventual judicialization of the Venezuelan government could have before the ICC (International Criminal Court), which could trigger ungovernability both nationally and internationally. The reports documented by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, as well as the repeated actions of the Venezuelan government in light of its recommendations, could represent an aggravating factor for the negotiation process.
Negotiations in Mexico
The fact that the negotiations were proposed in Mexico also responds to the initiative of the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his chancellor Marcelo Ebrard, who, in addition to not hiding their electoral aspirations, seeks to complement the usual diplomatic support that the Mexican government has given to Maduro . On the other hand, Mexico is currently the only ally in the region that is not immersed in a national political upheaval, like Cuba and Nicaragua, or in a pre-electoral climate, like Argentina.
Another diplomat highlighted in the negotiation is Dag Nylander, the director of the Norwegian center for conflict resolution, who knows Venezuelan foreign policy very well. In 2017, he was delegated by the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, as a representative in the face of the border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana.
However, both parties face great social disaffection. As for the opposition, its erratic conduct in the reconstruction of “democratic unity” stands out, a complex, sporadic and deferred task by a leadership that has cost more than expected to unite wills, especially in electoral situations. In this context, these negotiations could help to revive its international political recognition and achieve some significant advances at the national level.
It is certainly premature to state an outcome for such a complex process. However, due to repeated failed previous experiences, as well as the appeasement achieved by the government in these processes, it would seem difficult to reach an agreement. Due to the historical negotiator of Chavismo, the only thing that can be demonstrated is the continuity of its fragility in the face of criticism, the unreliability of its word and, above all, its vigorous disposition to the excessive use of violence.
However, in the current circumstances and given the internal pressures of Chavismo, one cannot rule out any concession from the government that does not touch very closely the institutions that can guarantee its permanence in power. This, with the intention of managing to alleviate the sanctions that are being imposed internationally on the high officials of the dictatorship.
It is also necessary to consider that the international climate seems favorable to bring the positions closer together. The demands of the Biden administration seem to be in line with those reiterated by the European Union and some nations in the Latin American region in terms of allowing humanitarian assistance in the face of an eventual gradual dismantling of sanctions. A possibility that will depend on the ability of the parties to make concessions.
We will have to wait and examine the next events. At the moment, we only have nine representatives on each side, questionable political representation, mutual distrust and renewed expectations in the face of a new negotiation. Everyone gathered in Mexico City is once again trying to understand each other and find a solution to the barbarism that Venezuelans are experiencing.
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