A ghost named Maduro | International

Photograph provided by the press of Miraflores where Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is observed in a government act, this Monday in Caracas (Venezuela). The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, thanked his Colombian counterpart, Gustavo Petro, on Monday for promoting the restoration of relations between the two countries.Marcelo García (Miraflores Press/Marcelo Garcí/EFE)

Nicolás Maduro does not move beyond Miraflores, Fuerte Tiuna and La Casona, the presidential residence where he does not live, but from which he constantly broadcasts his meetings on television. For this reason, he was not going to cross the border this Monday for the opening act as expected. As foreign minister of Hugo Chávez he traveled a lot, but as president he has moved little, especially since 2018, when he suffered a drone attack at a military parade in Caracas. During that episode of the drones he appears in public escorted with bulletproof briefcases and defense umbrellas activated to defend him. Maduro has stopped attending military parades and mass events. His security entourage has grown and the Presidential Honor Guard is commanded by the same head of the Military Counterintelligence Directorate, Iván Hernández Dala, mentioned this Monday in the report of the UN Independent Mission to broker the State policy of persecution and torture against opponents and dissidents.

Maduro’s absence during the opening of the border was expected, despite being a crucial milestone not only for the countries but also for their connection with the world after years of being diplomatically hemmed in by sanctions and accusations of human rights violations. “For security reasons,” Ambassador Armando Benedetti excused him days ago when there was speculation about the meeting of the two leaders on the Simón Bolívar bridge. But the diplomat has also said that he intends to demature relations between Colombia and Venezuela, to give priority to economic recovery and attention to the migration crisis. And, in a way, this is what Colombia has achieved today, although it remains to be seen how long that strategy can be sustained.

During the government of former President Iván Duque, Maduro made Colombia his main enemy, accused him of dozens of attacks against him and built an anti-Colombian narrative offensive, which has now disappeared with the change of command in the Casa de Nariño. He referred to her this Monday in an act from Miraflores at the end of the afternoon, in which he spoke about what happened at the border bridges during the morning. “In the darkest moments, when it came to invading Venezuela through those bridges to bring war, violence, terrorism, to our country, I knew that, sooner rather than later, this day was going to come, and with faith in God, I asked for it, and this day has come. I thank President Gustavo Petro”, said the president.

Maduro has sheltered himself in the specter of assassination regardless of the degree of the threats. More than a hundred soldiers are imprisoned for alleged plots, the intelligence services have dismantled operations with American mercenaries, but a few months ago the government also detained an old woman for a few hours who made a joke on TikTok about the death of the Chavista leader . Since 2013, Maduro has denounced more than twenty attempts to assassinate him, in addition to international conspiracies against the functioning of basic services, the stability of the bolivar, the oil industry and everything that is going wrong in his government. One of these conspiracies, related to smuggling, was what between August and September 2015 led to the expulsion of more than 20,000 Colombians who lived in the border corridor, the demolition of their houses and the total closure of the passage of vehicles through the border. border that has been partially opened today.

Maduro has not attended a presidential inauguration since 2018, when he traveled to Mexico for the inauguration of Andrés López Obrador. That is the year in which he was re-elected as president in rigged elections, which the international community did not recognize and which led to the institutional labyrinth that allowed the creation of the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaidó. But since 2020, when Donald Trump put a price on his head and offered a $15 million reward for his capture, he has further restricted his travel exposures. The last ones he has done have been to Iran, Turkey, Algeria, where he was on a tour last June. Apart from that, he has traveled to Cuba and Russia, the narrow circle of countries that supports him.

Neither Maduro nor his vice president Delcy Rodríguez appeared at the border act. The opening of the border was carried out with second-level officials from Venezuela: Foreign Minister Carlos Faría and the Ministers of Industry and Transport, Hipólito Abreu and Ramón Velásquez, Ambassador Félix Plasencia, all led by Freddy Bernal, current Governor of the State border town of Táchira, but before being elected he was designated by Maduro as protectivea de facto chief over a territory ruled by the opposition.

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Bernal today has control of the binational corridor and regulates the trade that was woven in the closing years. He was also the one who led the questioned Special Actions Forces of the Bolivarian Police to guard the border, while criminal groups such as the Tren de Aragua and the ELN guerrillas also entrenched themselves in the area. Bernal accompanied Hugo Chávez in the 1992 military coup, he was a policeman, deputy, mayor and minister and due to alleged connections with drug trafficking and the former FARC guerrilla he was included in the Clinton List in 2011, which is why the Conviasa airline could not make the inaugural flight on the occasion of the border opening, but in his case it did not prevent him from crossing the bridge with a white rose in his hand, shaking hands with Petro and settling a new stage for both countries.

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