The negotiations in Norway have triggered aversion. The information has been handled irresponsibly, similar to the experience of the Dominican Republic in 2016, in the time of the pre-dialogue.
On the 23rd of January earlier this year, began a movement in Venezuela which had a three-step mantra: end the usurpation, establish an interim government, and conduct free and fair elections. The whole country agreed to tread this seemingly transparent route. The subsequent events can be outlined as follows: An attempt to enter the humanitarian aid into Venezuela, massive demonstrations in support of President Juan Guaido, people took to the streets with no intention to give up, staggering strikes, and a military uprising which was led by civilians. However, all these tactics failed.
Meanwhile, another plan was created. The people of the country, as well as Guaido’s allies in the international community, were kept in the dark about this plan. The hidden agenda included negotiations and agreements with Chavismo. The fear of further chaos in Venezuela motivated the weeks of discussions to negotiate the transition of power.
An unacceptable pact
After the 30th of April 2019, U.S. government officials and journalists from international media such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, El País and Armando.info informed the Venezuelan people that the government of Juan Guaido was negotiating with human rights violators.
Guaido’s government wanted to avoid the use of force and therefore planned an agreed transition with the Chavistas. It was a transaction. The official envoy of the United States for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, the Minister of Defense, Padrino López, the director of military intelligence, Iván Hernández Dala, and the President of the illegal Supreme Court of Justice, Maikel Moreno all reportedly welcomed the plan to overthrow Maduro because of the exorbitant benefits.
The newspapers and the investigative publication Armando.info revealed that negotiations were taking place behind closed doors for months. At least since February, the government of Juan Guaidó and high-profile Chavistas had arranged meetings with intermediaries in Bogotá, the Dominican Republic, Miami, and Panama.
Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the Volundar Popular political party, coordinated these negotiation efforts in large part from his home where he was placed under house arrest.
Sources close to Washington D.C. confirmed to the Panam Post that according to Secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the official envoy to Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, the United States of America and other important actors in the region had approved the operation which collapsed with the failure of the uprising of the 30th of April.
However, the other strategy was a hidden agenda and was not subject to the same terms after the failure of the 30th of April.
From Operation Freedom to Scandinavia
On the 30th of April, when it was evident that Guaido’s strategy had failed, he appealed to Venezuelans to take to the streets and not return. “Calle sin retorno,” he said. In the final phase of Operation Freedom, several strikes were also announced with the expectation that they would culminate into a historic general strike.
However, the demonstrations were diffused; the initial impetus soon descended into a sense of defeat as the route to freedom was distorted. Leopold Lopez is once again out of the public arena. He has sought refuge at the Spanish embassy in Caracas; thus, he is in the property of another country. Guaido is touring the country besieged with a cruel reality. The discussions in the parliament are inconsequential.
Meanwhile, the regime is using illegal means to incapacitate the President. From imposing the agenda, controlling the whole operation, to react, to be victims of a process that they no longer control. From home to home, members of the parliament and their supporter fear abduction. They feel as though power has been snatched away from their hands as the 23rd of January has been left far behind.
“Three weeks after the 30th of April, Guaido is shifting between safe houses to avoid a possible arrest. Many men who were by his side on the 30th of April, as well as several legislators and politicians who supported him, are now in prison or are seeking refuge in embassies of other countries in Caracas,” reports The New York Times.
“Weakened and unable to quickly resolve the political crisis gripping Venezuela, Mr. Guaidó has been forced to consider negotiations with Mr. Maduro,” reports American journalist Anatoly Kurmanaev. Guaido had declared, not long ago, that he would drive Maduro out of power.
It is perhaps the worst time to give in. Guaido feels weak because he is unwilling to sit down and negotiate in seemingly unfavorable conditions. However, in the darkest hour before dawn, Venezuelans have to encounter what they are most afraid of: dialogue.
“In public, Mr. Guaidó remains upbeat and unwavering. At flash rallies around the capital, Caracas, he implores supporters to keep up the protests. However, during an interview, he acknowledged that the opposition’s capacity to operate is hurting,” writes Kurmanaev.
What stands out from The New York Times report is that Guaido had previously declined such negotiations orchestrated by the Scandinavian nation. A source close to Guaido said that Oslo had been trying to conduct these talks for weeks. However, another source said that Guaido was the one to approach Norway to host the negotiations.
The same source, who prefers to be anonymous, told me, “I guess that this was primarily an initiative of Leopoldo López”. In the Spanish newspaper El País, journalist Javier Lafuente emphasizes that the conversations in Norway have the “approval” of Leopoldo López. Peruvian journalist Jaime Bayly also said in his program: “I don’t like that Leopoldo has told Guaidó what he should do.”
“I think that the President should forget about Norway. He should ignore whatever Lopez tells him,” said Bayly.
Similarly, Washington’s discomfort with the participation of Leopoldo López in the decisions of the legitimate government of Juan Guaidó is noteworthy.
As high-level American officials such as Mike Pompeo, Elliot Abrams, and John Bolton have clarified, President Guaidó is the man the USA supports in Venezuela. Their man.
An official from the Organization of American States, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the United States is irritated by the new role Leopoldo Lopez is assuming, precisely because Guaidó is Washington’s man.
The official told me, “the west wing is not happy.” Concerning the term ‘our man’ that Washington uses for Guaido, the official commented, “and when they say, this is our man, they take it very seriously. Our-man-in-Venezuela. Another one cannot replace him.”
However, as a result of the failure of his previous decisions to overthrow Maduro, the weakening of the presidency, and the demoralization of Maduro, Guaido has yielded by participating in the negotiations in Oslo.
Beyond the salmon and the excellent Slatteol beer, Colombia wants nothing to do with Norway. The Government of Ivan Duque is irritated at the mention of the Scandinavian country because of their recent experience with the peace dialogues. What began in Oslo, continued in Havana, and passed through Venezuela, ended in a reformed FARC, which is just as dangerous as it was previously.
Therefore, a source very close to the Colombian President told me, “you can’t even imagine how angry is the government here”. Colombia is a chief ally and the potential savior of Venezuela along with Brazil and the United States. The country felt snubbed when Juan Guaidó’s government turned away from the American partners to go to a country that neither recognizes the presidency of the Popular Will member nor has a favorable history of championing for freedom in the region.
He added, “Colombia found out about the negotiations is Oslo very late, and we did not take this well because we are supposed to be their allies.”
The Government of Colombia found out through the media as did the rest of the world. Immediately after the information leaked, the leader of the opposition party Primero Justicia, Julio Borges, went to the networks to say that he was not aware of the proximity between the regime and the Guaidó government. He distanced himself from the affair. Nor did prominent members of the Popular Will party know about it. Influential deputies, whom today live in exile in Colombia, were unaware of the Norwegian process.
Moreover, the Venezuelan ambassadors were also surprised. Two confirmed to me that they knew nothing. One assured me that it made him uncomfortable, and the other tried to justify it.
The Colombian government isn’t the only ally of Guaido who is upset to hear about the negotiations in Oslo. The Brazilian government, too, was unaware of these proceedings. The news shattered their confidence in the Guaido’s government. The American government had no option but to wade through this surprise.
A Venezuelan leader living in exile told me: “The allies have contacted me, and they’re surprised. They want to know if I was updated.”
The Washington Post also revealed on the 22nd of May that “Norwegians had approached Americans a couple of weeks earlier to try a dialogue”. According to the newspaper, the United States rejected them because they hoped, first, some gesture of “good faith” on the part of Nicolás Maduro’s regime. They do not have any confidence in the Maduro administration.
A senior official in the Trump administration, who prefers to be anonymous, said to the Washington Post, “What’s this for? Another attempt to buy time? To distract?”
Luis Almagro, the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, has been vocal about his discontentment. He commented to infobae media, “Norway’s approach to the issue is wrong because this is not an issue of a two-party conflict; it is about how to get rid of a dictatorship, and how to restore fundamental rights to the people.”
“It does not help that Norway still recognizes Maduro as the legitimate President. If they believe in his legitimacy, they are not going to be able to solve the humanitarian crisis, nor the migratory crisis, or the systematic violations of human rights,” Almagro added.
Moreover, the secretary is right. Guaidó’s government, which has all the moral authority, should not relent to an intermediary who believes that both parties have equal moral and ethical legitimacy. They have virtually reduced the dispute to a two-party conflict. Much less, as he confessed to the New York Times, go to Norway in a condition of weakness. He must, it is the only way, and he can, impose to the regime of Nicolás Maduro a negotiation that favors him and the Venezuelans. The allies, who today, unfortunately, mistrust Guaidó, could give him the strength he needs.
These negotiations also expose Guaido’s weaknesses as he confessed to The New York Times. It is necessary to impose upon Maduro a negotiation that favors only Guaido and the people of Venezuela. The allies in the region are the ones who can enable this; however, today, sadly, they mistrust Guaido’s actions.
Diplomat Diego Arria has had a unique experience in conflict resolution and international negotiations. He participated in Bosnia, the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Guatemala, Haiti, El Salvador, Cambodia, and Mozambique. Today, he too is suspicious of the events in Norway. Along with Almagro, he waits apprehensively as the proceedings in Oslo unfold.
“The whole country isn’t in Norway, only the representatives of Voluntad Popular and Un Nuevo Tiempo are negotiating to restore our fundamental freedoms. I find this dangerous. They have to recognize one thing. The country isn’t that of the National Assembly. The National Assembly belongs to the country. Guaidó doesn’t have an inherent right over the will of the Venezuelans, but the other way round”, said Arria in an audiovisual broadcast.
“This conversation or mediation is not legitimate at all because the true representatives are not there, neither of the regime nor of those who would be the Venezuelan opposition,” he said. Arria refers to the fact that neither the illegitimate Minister of Information, Jorge Rodríguez, nor Miranda’s illegal governor, Héctor Rodríguez represents the regime, nor do the independent and former mayor, Gerardo Blyde, nor the second vice-president of the Assembly and member of the Un Nuevo Tiempo party, Stalin González.
“We’ve already tried this. Negotiations failed a while ago, and when negotiations collapse, the only option left is the use of force,” says diplomat Diego Arria.
However, the negotiations will continue. Bloomberg reports that there may be a second round of the talks in Norway next week. If they happen, Guaidó’s diplomats will be joined by the former rector of the National Electoral Council, Vicente Díaz, and the illegitimate chancellor Jorge Arreaza will represent the regime.
The negotiations and agreements began several months ago and Maduro, as well as the Venezuelan people, were kept in the dark about them. Later, they were taken up in Cuba with Maduro. And now, they are going on in Norway.
The allies and the Venezuelan people are uncomfortable. Feelings of mistrust may spread among everyone. Guaidó is risking losing the excellent opportunity he has as the international community in the region is supporting him.