Diplomatic offensive in Paris to reach an agreement between the Government and the opposition in Venezuela | International

The Venezuelan crisis is once again a priority for the international community a year after Nicolás Maduro suspended his participation at the negotiating table in Mexico. The presidents of France, Colombia, Argentina and the Norwegian foreign minister met this Friday in Paris with Jorge Rodríguez, Maduro’s most trusted man, and with the opposition Gerardo Blyde so that the parties sit down again to talk and finalize a date for presidential elections that should be held before 2024 – on the table is the possibility of May of that year, according to sources familiar with the negotiation. The idea is that verifiable elections be organized, supervised by neutral institutions, in which opponents of Chavismo have a real chance of coming to power.

The Venezuelan situation seemed stuck, with no signs of resolution. However, events have accelerated in recent months. The invasion of Ukraine has led the United States to approach Maduro to seek energy alternatives to Russia. Gustavo Petro’s victory in Colombia has provided Venezuela with a willing partner that wants to find an agreed solution to the crisis. The path of isolating Maduro that Washington pushed with the appointment three years ago of an alternative president like Juan Guaidó has been a failure, it has not produced results. The arrival of new progressive governments in the region, such as that of Gabriel Boric in Chile and the imminent incorporation of Lula da Silva in Brazil, has also opened new channels of connection. Also, this week, Frenchman Emmanuel Macron urged Maduro to act. It was a euphemism for telling him to set that election date and allow a clean election.

Macron suddenly has an unexpected role in the resolution of the conflict. The French president took advantage of the visit of Petro and Argentine Alberto Fernández to the Paris Forum for Peace, which is held every year to commemorate the end of World War II, to join Chavismo and the opposition. The return to Mexico of both parties is imminent, and could even be announced this Saturday, according to sources familiar with the discussion. Spain has not had any role as a mediator. The relationship between President Pedro Sánchez and Maduro is not the best. The Venezuelan does not forget that Sánchez supported Guaidó on his day, although in the last year he has lost all enthusiasm and no longer believes in him. Maduro has even vetoed Sánchez as a facilitator in the peace talks with the ELN guerrilla (National Liberation Army) that Colombia is going to start shortly. The relationship seems difficult to mend. Although it will not be for trying. The Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, met with Rodríguez and Blyde separately and in a meeting of three, so Spain is not resigned to not having any role.

Jorge Rodríguez, president of the Venezuelan Assembly, this Friday in Paris, in a photograph provided by the Venezuelan presidency.

That void has been filled by Petro. He has put all his energies into leading Venezuela towards a “liberal democracy”, as he told Maduro himself in Caracas. He has insisted that he return to the inter-American human rights system, where the judicial decisions of the courts, co-opted by Chavismo according to the UN, can be amended. In these weeks, Petro has balanced to expose the Venezuelan situation without seeming critical. At the exit of the meeting in Paris, Petro did stunts again. He confirmed that the return of the parties to the negotiating table is imminent and that a series of agreements must be reached there to end the political and social drama that Venezuela is experiencing. He said that he expressed to the rest of the parties that the economic sanctions of the United States and Europe had to be ended because, in his opinion, they affect the Venezuelan people above all.

He then entered one of the thorniest issues. Petro -this is one of the few issues on which he agrees with Guaidó- believes it is essential to implement an amnesty for political prisoners that will release imprisoned opponents from jail, but also give guarantees to Chavismo that it will not be persecuted in the courts. It is a way of offering him a way out to prevent him from clinging to power forever. “I ask for a de-escalation of the political conflict, the entry of Venezuela into the human rights system, the general amnesty and the general unblocking of the economy,” requested the president of Colombia, who had the support of Argentina in almost all his positions. He insisted that this must be an agreement between Venezuelans, without external intervention, with the ultimate goal of holding a presidential election. “They must give a guarantee to all the forces that intervene there and where the expression of the Venezuelan people is the one that decides,” he added.

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The president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Jorge Rodríguez, at the end, declared to EL PAÍS that Macron had been a great host. “It is a process that has been going through very arduous discussions to reach an agreement that allows us to resume talks in Mexico. We insist that there cannot be a dialogue with a revolver to the head and Venezuela has 762 revolvers, which are illegal sanctions, which are neither more nor less than torture against the social and economic body of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Progress must be made in lifting each and every one of those sanctions,” Rodríguez said. He said goodbye saying that the dialogue will be reactivated “soon”, although he did not offer a specific date.

The opponent Blyde also offered his vision of the meeting: “We were not the ones who got up a year ago, we have insisted on returning many times and the conditions are being met for it to materialize. The state in Venezuela was dismantled, the democratic mechanism was dismantled. The sanctions are not to blame. We Venezuelans want to elect our president as Petro, Macron or Fernández have been elected”, he concluded.

The return to Mexico seems like a matter of days. The international community is now pushing harder than ever. Maduro must decide what his place in history will be. He replaced Hugo Chavez, toughened internal politics and ended up isolated from the rest of the world. Now that he once again has a voice and a role on the international scene, he has to choose between remaining immobile or facilitating a transition. He has the last word.

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