A delegation from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) will arrive in Venezuela on Friday to try to mediate the ongoing crisis between President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition, whose principal leaders have been jailed.
Unasur secretary general Ernesto Samper, a former Colombian president, will head the group, which includes the foreign ministers of Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia.
The political crisis came to a head last month when Maduro ordered the Venezuelan intelligence police to arrest opposition Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma for allegedly trying to plot his overthrow.
Thank God we have Unasur to protect us from the imperialists’ blows ” President Maduro
Ledezma was taken to a military prison outside Caracas, the same facility where other opposition leaders – former mayors Leopoldo López and Daniel Ceballos – are also being held.
Maduro said that the coup conspiracy was being drafted in Bogota, Miami and Madrid – a charge the opposition has denied. Before his arrest, Ledezma had signed a public petition calling for Maduro to step down and for the formation of a national transition government. Also signing the declaration was López and former deputy María Corina Machado.
Despite past complaints about foreign diplomats trying to meddle in his country’s internal affairs, Maduro last month asked for Unasur's help.
“Thank God we have Unasur to protect and accompany us, which allows us to dodge the blows coming from the imperialists and interventionists,” he said.
Unasur was founded in 2008 and includes all nations in South America with the exception of French Guiana
This isn’t the first time that Unasur has tried to snuff out the political flames in Venezuela. Last year, foreign ministers, including a representative from the Vatican, convinced Venezuela to implement a series of partial reforms in the three branches of government.
But the opposition charged that Maduro has ignored Unasur’s recommendations by dragging his feet with regard to the introduction of certain measures.
On Tuesday, Maduro stepped up his attacks against the Spanish press for what he sees as a campaign against Venezuela and the use of his country in the upcoming elections. The media have linked officials from the anti-austerity party Podemos with contracts they received from the Venezuelan government.
“Stop being scared of us,” he said during his weekly television program. “Mr [Mariano] Rajoy, don’t use us in your campaign; leave the Venezuelans alone. If you want to be prime minister again show Spaniards that you are capable.”
But in an ironic tone, Maduro said that he was sure that he would win the elections in Spain if he were to run for prime minister because “I appear in Spanish newspapers and on TV more than Rajoy.”