The Venezuelan opposition, which appointed Juan Guaidó as interim president in 2019 and called for sanctions against their own country, is now embarking on a tour of Europe asking for reconciliation and dialogue. Your chances of success? Rather gloomy.
By Ociel Ali Lopez
The same Venezuelan opposition that appointed Juan Guaidó as interim president in the National Assembly in 2019 and openly called for sanctions against their own country is now embarking on a tour of Europe asking for reconciliation and dialogue. The governments that supported the strategy of the attempted coup at the time are now supposed to support the agreements reached at the negotiating table between the government of Nicolás Maduro and the opposition. Especially on one crucial point: they are supposed to release Venezuela’s billions that are “frozen” in European banks.
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These international reserves of Venezuela have been held back since Washington tightened already extreme financial sanctions against Venezuela in 2019. It’s over $3 billion sitting in banks in the UK, Portugal and the US. According to the official narrative, the predatory measures taken to refresh the equity capital of Western financial institutions were intended to facilitate Venezuela’s return to democracy and force the resignation of President Maduro.
But after the start of the war in Ukraine and the subsequent boycott of Russian oil, hurried US emissaries made several visits to the government seat in Caracas to seek access to Venezuela’s oil reserves again. Venezuelans used the apparent opening up of US foreign policy to normalize relations. Negotiations with the radical opposition at the dialogue table in Mexico got under way again and led to important results – for the US.
In the “Second Partial Agreement for the Protection of the Venezuelan People”, advantages were agreed for both sides. The US oil company Chevron received permission to produce and sell heavy oil without paying taxes to Venezuela’s treasury. In return, the three billion dollars should be handed over to the UN administration to finance humanitarian and social projects in Venezuela.
Today Chevron works in Venezuela, but so far not a cent of the three billion has flowed. The opposition parties must take political responsibility for this and persuade their previous allies in Europe and America to fulfill this part of the promises. Otherwise they would have little chance of winning anything in the coming presidential elections. Because their problem now is that this time, in contrast to 2018, they want to take part in the upcoming 2024 election event.
The Maduro government has urged compliance with the treaty signed through the mediation of the Kingdom of Norway and the Mexican government, with the participation of the Netherlands and Russia as respective “partners”.
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The consequences of non-compliance
As a consequence of non-compliance, the internal dialogue in the Caribbean country has been put on hold for the time being, no new political agreements can be reached, and the political fig leaf of democratizing Venezuela is suddenly no longer so important to the USA and Europe. The film with the color revolution in Venezuela is over.
Meanwhile, time is ticking towards Election Day and the ruling party has threatened to bring the date forward, increasing the urgency for the opposition to negotiate.
Now she has embarked on a European tour to sensitize and sound out her allies on the need for negotiations in Mexico, which could speed up the release of Venezuela’s finances. However, the group’s previous chief negotiator, Gerardo Blyde, was not present on the tour. Blyde is one of the more moderate voices in the anti-Maduro chorus.
If Europeans cannot be persuaded to transfer these funds to the UN, it will be difficult for the opposition to obtain better terms of participation in elections in return.
The trip began with a meeting on January 30 with the European Union’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares. The Spanish government was asked to mediate in the negotiations.
The tour also included meetings in Brussels, Berlin and Lisbon. Unfortunately, the delegation did not achieve any concrete results. At the end of the day, there weren’t even any official announcements, which is tantamount to a rebuff on the diplomatic scene.
Snub to the Venezuelan delegation?
Opposition leader Tomás Guanipa, spokesman for the delegation, reported on the meeting with Portuguese Foreign Minister João Gomes Cravinho, whom he called on “not to see Venezuela as a hopeless case”. Portugal is a key country on this issue, as one of its banks has withheld more than $1 billion from Venezuela’s international reserves. However, Guanipa did not mention this when he left the meeting.
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At the conclusion of the trip, given the coldness and the vague offers of explanations and minutes with which Europe received the Venezuelan delegation, it seems reasonable to conclude that the meetings will do little to change the current scenario of the negotiations being broken off.
The opposition leaders have certainly elicited good wishes from their European interlocutors, but it has not been made public whether they have also agreed to intervene in the release of the billions. The opposition needs the European leaders to get things moving at the negotiating table. However, the attempts do not seem to have been crowned with success, at least during the tour.
Apparently, a decision by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) allowing sanctions to be lifted will have to wait. Only then can the retained resources and the negotiations flow.
With all that said, the January 2023 European tour may have been a “lost” path for the opposition. Nor has it achieved a change in attitude on the part of Washington that would be flexible enough to reopen dialogue at the negotiating table in Mexico.
Split between moderates and radicals
Meanwhile in Venezuela, key opposition leaders already in the running for the presidency have called for an end to the country’s blockade. With the open distancing by politicians in their own ranks, the opposition is once again showing its inner rupture.
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The right-wing politician Freddy Guevara of the “Voluntad Popular” once again revealed the split in the right-wing party coalition. He criticized the speeches by the more moderate opposition leaders, who are now speaking out against US and European sanctions.
Guevara and his party want to prevent the resources that have been withheld from being released and thus the resumption of dialogue. You are known for taking part in demonstrations, which erupted into serious violence.
Revised translation from Spanish
More on the subject – Venezuelan opposition dissolves interim government of Juan Guaidó