Juan Guaidó's surprise stopover in Bogotá (Colombia) again exposed the Venezuelan opposition’s worst shortcoming: a complete ignorance of the history and current affairs of Venezuela and Colombia.
Guaidó's decision to insert himself in Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s international conference to seek democratic solutions to the Venezuelan schism was enthusiastically applauded on social media. He arrived uninvited and elbowed his way into the spotlight, just like Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, back in 2016 when she was Foreign Minister. Rodríguez was conspicuously left off the guest list for an important MERCOSUR (a South American trade block) meeting. She crashed the party anyway, but found an empty ballroom waiting for her. Petro had proposed the meeting of 20 country representatives as a symposium for opposition and pro-Maduro leaders to get the Mexico talks back on track. Easier said than done, of course.
Now that the respective roles of Venezuela’s government and opposition in the Petro conference are clear, perhaps we will have a productive forum that truly transcends the suspicions and misgivings that have resulted in so many fruitless meetings of “friendly countries,” like the Lima gabfest and the very permanent council established by the Organization of American States (OAS). If only because all the governments represented at the Bogotá conference are legitimate and there are no “interim governments” that feed every year on handouts from the US Agency for International Development and other usurper regimes.
The guest list looks balanced – the opposition and Maduro both have very reliable friends in that deck of cards. The Petro initiative undoubtedly has traction and perhaps it will succeed in freeing the talks from the Mexican quagmire. But I suspect that Maduro would have preferred not to have such a conference.
In short, the first meeting yielded substantive agreements in record time and the participating countries have agreed to convene again. God willing, it will happen soon. The crux of these agreements is that the timetable for truly free, above-board elections will run in parallel with the lifting of sanctions. Implicit in the agreements is the need for a general amnesty, restitution of universal political rights, and $3 billion in humanitarian aid for the suffering Venezuelans.
Everyone agreed on Mexico as the venue for the next meeting, which will be refereed by Norway, a friendly supporter whose exhortations have often been ignored. The Venezuelan lead actors will be surrounded by a reasonably balanced supporting cast of countries. Most importantly, Colombia will remain as host. As Venezuela’s next-door neighbor, it suffers the greatest impacts of the ongoing crisis and is highly motivated to get the job done. But no one has a crystal ball to tell us whether the relaunched talks will succeed.
Surely some Venezuelans hope the Petro initiative will fail, but perhaps only those with long-held grudges tracing back to the 1829 assassination of José María Córdova, who rebelled against General Simón Bolívar. There are more than a few, to be sure, but they do not represent most Venezuelans today. They are the Guaidó-Trumpers, the faction that Juan Guaidó shamelessly panders to as Leopoldo López’s surrogate. Is there anyone else in the Venezuelan opposition with the same propensity for the mendacious, the egomaniacal, and the colorful as the media-friendly, exiled López? Whatever you may think about Petro, does Leopoldo López really believe that someone with Petro’s background will take orders from Nicolás Maduro?
With a vengeful López cheering him on from the sidelines and untrustworthy social media flatterers applauding every move, Juan Guaidó insists on walking this precarious tightrope without realizing that his own frivolous behavior has ended his public career before the age of 40.
I must ask the irate Venezuelan exiles in Miami and Madrid to ponder one last question: the repertoire of Billo’s Caracas Boys is virtually indistiguishable from the music of beloved Colombian bandleader Pacho Galán. Why is that?
I do not find it plausible that Gustavo Petro has convened this conference to appease anyone or whitewash the Venezuelan dictatorship. Colombia, my friends, is our other half. It’s in all of our interests – on both sides of the Táchira River – that the Bogotá initiative goes ahead.
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