Nicolás Maduro. (AP)

Nicolás Maduro. (AP)


The Temptation of Venezuela Negotiations

By Eric Farnsworth and Guillermo Zubillaga

Observers must maintain pressure and unity until meaningful steps are taken by the Maduro regime, write Eric Farnsworth and Guillermo Zubillaga for Univision.

Update: Negotiations are set to start on Friday, August 13, in Mexico between representatives of the de facto regime of Nicolás Maduro and the administration of Juan Guaidó. This is not the first time negotiations have been attempted, and expectations for meaningful democratic progress are modest. Below, AS/COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth and Senior Director Guillermo Zubillaga discuss why the history of dialogue with chavistas is so fraught.

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Does Venezuela’s acceptance of World Food Program aid and other steps signal political flexibility and a new willingness to negotiate?

The regime is desperate for sanctions relief and is probing whether the Biden Administration will shift U.S. policy. And no doubt, Washington would much rather see a resolution than have the crisis fester despite the application of “maximum pressure.” A window of opportunity has opened, it seems, to discuss a path toward free and fair elections, national reconciliation, and humanitarian restoration.

The people of Venezuela have suffered long enough, and it is both natural and appropriate that observers would want to seize any opportunity to end the hemisphere’s worst humanitarian disaster of the modern era. There is an understandable temptation to pursue and expand the actions announced by Caracas.

But the primary driver of regime behavior remains the accretion and exercise of power. Dictatorships in trouble routinely offer limited, symbolic concessions to play for time and aid. To lull the international community, they do what they need to tactically even as they pursue a broader strategic aim: their own longevity.

In this light, acceptance of food aid looks different, not as regime flexibility but inflexibility. It is an astonishing development to be sure, that people who live in the nation with the world’s largest proven reserves of oil should require such assistance in the first place. Meanwhile, de facto leader Nicolas Maduro is happy to take credit for this grand gesture with the international community, even though, after destroying his own agriculture sector and wider economy, it merely allows him to pass the bill for feeding the Venezuelan people to others. There is little reason to read into this development his desire to negotiate anything, certainly not his own departure. …

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