Chronicle of a Death Foretold: The Nine Failed Dialogues in Venezuela
There have been at least nine negotiations, four with Hugo Chavez and five with Nicolas Maduro, none of which have yielded positive results for Venezuelans.
Spanish – During 20 years of 21st-century socialism in Venezuela, Chavismo has remained in power using the dialogue table as a supposed mediation instrument. However, none of the attempts has yielded positive results for the country. At least nine negotiations have taken place, four with Hugo Chavez and five -until now- with Nicolas Maduro.
All the previous attempts at dialogue have been unsuccessful. In fact, every time a round of negotiations begins, the crisis in Venezuela worsens, repression intensifies, political prisoners and the number of rapes, murders, and tortures multiply.
Pedro Urruchurtu, political scientist and national coordinator of Vente Venezuela, published a summary of how the South American country has been the scene of failed dialogue attempts, demonstrating that these dialogues have been lost efforts.
[#Hilo] ¿Sabía usted que, de 20 años de chavismo, 17 han sido parte de “diálogos” entre régimen y oposición y se han tenido, al menos, 9 mesas de "acuerdo"?
(4 con Chávez y 5 con Maduro) pic.twitter.com/8LumVph7sG
— Pedro A. Urruchurtu (@Urruchurtu) August 14, 2019
Urruchurtu recalled that the first dialogue took place after the protests and the national strike in 2002, where the Democratic Coordinator, under the sponsorship of then OAS Secretary General Caesar Gaviria and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, established a negotiation table with Hugo Chavez. Negotiations also continued in 2005, 2010, and 2011.
“The regime didn’t comply with any of the agreements. It consolidated what it won with the recall referendum, including the fraud. The regime gained time,” Urruchurtu pointed out.
In 2013, when Maduro was already in power, the regime called the opposition to another dialogue table within the framework of the “La Salida” demonstrations called by Leopoldo Lopez, Antonio Ledezma, and Maria Corina Machado. Human rights violations were more than evident, and in 2015, UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) tried to mediate; however, the dictatorship did not comply with any agreement.
In January 2017, the Venezuelan opposition asserted that it would no longer participate in negotiations if the regime did not comply with its commitments, including the release of political prisoners, the acceptance of humanitarian aid, and the presentation of an electoral calendar. However, the dictatorship did not comply, and yet the MUD ceded once again.
Maduro’s non-compliance with the agreements led to the Vatican’s withdrawal from the talks. That same month Pope Francis took the decision not to send, until further notice, his international delegate to participate in the dialogue that Claudio Maria Celli began in 2016.
For Venezuela, every attempt at dialogue with Chavismo has been a “headache.” Meanwhile, the regime uses political prisoners as chess pieces – it frees some while imprisoning others.
During previous attempts at negotiations, the number of prisoners of conscience multiplied, the humanitarian crisis aggravated, and Chavismo successfully divided the opposition. While the opposition gave in, Chavismo became stronger.
Between rounds of dialogue, the opposition opted for a recall referendum that was unsuccessful because the dictatorship unconstitutionally dismantled it. Instead of demanding that the referendum be implemented at all costs, the opposition let it pass.
The same thing happened with a promised march to the presidential palace of Miraflores, a demonstration demanded by the people to put even more pressure on the Maduro regime. However, MUD decided to postpone it under the pretext of a new attempted dialogue with the participation of the Vatican. The dictatorship did not give in, and the Vatican stepped down from the table.
In 2017, Chavismo committed itself to a clear dialogue agenda: allowing the humanitarian channel, releasing political prisoners, and implementing changes in the CNE, while demanding the elimination of sanctions. However, it did not comply with any of the points. After months of talking, the regime gained time and mocked the foreign ministers, mediators, and even the government of the Dominican Republic that hosted it.
Now, in 2019, interim President Juan Guaido sat down again with Nicolas Maduro’s regime at a dialogue table, this time sponsored by Norway and the European Union to discuss the advancement of presidential elections with democratic guarantees. However, Chavismo has already assured that no elections will take place. Thus, all time dedicated to negotiations so far has been wasted.
Guaido’s allies have been warning him.
The United States, which has participated in several mediation attempts, has already warned that the dialogues with Maduro are not genuine and that the regime does not intend to achieve a democratic solution. The Colombian government and OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro have also pointed this out.
The government of Ivan Duque has been a staunch ally of the legitimate president Juan Guaido, but in turn, has been a harsh critic of the negotiations that offer no way out. In an interview with RCN, the Colombian president remarked that the new dialogue is part of “the dictator’s strategy.”
The U.S. government has also expressed its opinion through its national security advisor, Jhon Bolton, who asserted through his Twitter account that in Venezuela, “there can be no good-faith dialogue with Maduro.”
In an interview with Orlando Avendaño for the PanAm Post, Almagro noted that “the dialogues in Norway strengthened Maduro and weakened Guaido.
“I do not want a process like the one in Norway to lead us to a situation like the one the other dialogue processes led us to -in 2016, 2018…” -said the General Secretary of the OAS.
“After each of these processes, a status quo was consolidated, Maduro emerged stronger, and the opposition weakened. Moreover, today we see, after Norway, that the image of the interim president has deteriorated a lot. Maduro’s image improved. He suddenly became a legitimate interlocutor for certain things (…) I feel that this always comes at the weakest moments of Maduro,” Almagro said in an exclusive interview.
How does each dialogue strengthen Maduro and give him more time?
The dictatorship in Venezuela has found the formula to delay international sanctions against it. While it affirms that it is willing to negotiate, dialogue, and converse with Guaido, it distracts the international community from the main objective: to oust the regime that has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the region and the largest refugee exodus in the history of Latin America.
The Norwegian dialogues imply more time with Maduro in power. Time passes, the days go by, the negotiations and secretive, and we see no progress. Meanwhile, the international community, especially the European Union, has opted to postpone sanctions.
Jorge Tricas, professor of Political Sociology at the Andres Bello Catholic University (UCAB), explained to the PanAm Post that the only thing accomplishment of the dialogues is that Chavismo gains time and improves its image.
“What’s at stake is prolonging the tyranny’s stay in the state apparatus. If you propose an election in nine months, it means that Maduro has already gained time. But the important thing is that here to gain time means to improve its image. Chavismo wants to improve its image, and when you accept and promote going to dialogue, you make the enemy appear fair and reasonable,” explained the expert. Tricas pointed out that “it is not a negotiation when the ruling party is not willing to give in.”
Amid the dialogue, Maduro wants to look like a negotiator and a kind man. However, at the same time, he murders dissidents like Lieutenant Commander Rafael Acosta, persecutes parliamentarians, and snatches the eyesight of a 16-year-old boy.
“It is incomprehensible how to talk to people, who, while saying they are willing to talk, take away a child’s eyesight,” he said.
The specialist added that “these encounters generate false expectations. In the end, we always have the same expectations and are frustrated. We are left empty-handed, and we lose time,” he said.