Ecuador, Colombia and Peru are not waiting with bated breath as a new round of Venezuelan talks begin this week in Barbados

Jul 8, 2019 | 7 comments

Talks between the Venezuelan opposition and the government of President Nicolas Maduro to resolve the country’s political crisis will resume this week in Barbados but the countries most affected by the millions of Venezuelans leaving home have low expectations for the results.

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro maintains the support of the country’s military forces.

The Norwegian foreign ministry, which has been acting as a mediator, said the two sides would meet “to move forward in the search for a negotiated and constitutional solution.” The two sides have been engaged in a bitter power struggle since January. Preliminary talks held in May in Oslo petered out without an agreement.

So far, few details have emerged about the new round of talks. Neither the exact date nor who will attend has been announced.

At stake in the talks is not only the future of Venezuela but desperately needed relief for Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, which are straining under the burden of refugees who continue to flee the economic crisis in Venezuela. According to United Nations estimates, there are currently 1.5 million refugees in Colombia, one million in Peru and 350,000 in Ecuador.

“We are hopeful that the talks will have a positive outcome but we are not holding our breaths,” a spokesman for Ecuador’s foreign ministry said Saturday. “We are not convinced that the current government is serious about considering the options necessary for restoring order in Venezuela.”

Juan Guaidó, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, laid out the opposition’s aim on Twitter. The statement said the goal was to “negotiate a way out from the dictatorship.”

The roadmap the opposition proposes consists of three points: an end to the “usurpation of power” by Maduro’s government; a transitional government; free elections monitored by international observers

The government’s communications minister, Jorge Rodríguez, also tweeted, saying he was praying for the government’s efforts “to consolidate peace and national understanding to bear fruit”.

Guaidó and President Maduro have been at loggerheads since January, when the former invoked the constitution and declared himself interim president, arguing that the elections which had returned Mr Maduro to power for a second term in 2018 had not been free and fair.

Since then, more than 50 countries, including the United States and most nations in Latin America, have recognized Mr Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

But Venezuela’s military — a powerful force in the country — and influential allies such as China and Russia have stuck by Maduro.

An attempt by Guaidó to get the military to switch allegiance to him failed, and the country remains in limbo with both men claiming to be the legitimate president.

Meanwhile, a severe economic crisis has exacerbated and shortages of food and medicines have grown even more acute. United Nations figures suggest four million people have fled the country since 2015.

The government blames the shortages on US sanctions but the opposition says they are down to years of mismanagement.

Just a week ago Guaidó ruled out a return to negotiations, citing as a reason the death in custody of an army captain whose body showed signs of torture.

In the statement he released, Guaidó did not say why his stance had changed. Some in the opposition say the talks are a ruse by the government to buy itself more time in power.

Previous negotiations have broken down without an agreement and some in the opposition say the government’s crackdown on rival politicians — with more than a dozen opposition lawmakers being stripped of their parliamentary immunity and others being detained — shows President Maduro has no real interest in negotiating.

A UN report released on Friday said the Venezuelan government was using a strategy of instilling fear in its population to retain power. The Venezuelan government responded by saying the UN report was one-sided and biased.
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Credit: BBC, www.bbc.com

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