President Maduro of Venezuela is still strictly following the Castro brothers’ manual. After the huge repression of thousands of demonstrators angry with the country’s situation and responding to an international demand for reconciliation, he decided to open a round of dialogue with the opposition.
The talks were mainly promoted by the Latin American friends and allies of the Caracas regime, who proposed to use the UNASUR structure as a vehicle. Brazil, reinforcing its role as a regional power, did not want a big crisis next door, especially one affecting the most important regional energy producer.
Taking into consideration its deep influence, the Catholic Church is also playing a big role by blessing any kind of agreement between the government and the opposition.
During the last few days the Brazilian, Colombian, and Ecuadorian foreign affairs ministers and the Apostolic Nuncio were in Caracas visiting representatives of both sides, trying to find ways to reduce their differences. The main demand from Chávez’s heirs is that constitutional periods and procedures be respected, avoiding any kind of conspiracy from the opposition in order to depose or replace Maduro earlier.
On the other hand, the MUD (Mesa de Unión Democrática) — Democratic Unity Board — wants the end of the brutal repression against the students on the streets and squares, the dismantling of all of the pro-chavista gangs, and the release of all political prisoners, including Leopoldo López.
The problem is that Maduro’s regime, while accepting and meeting with the international mediators, at the same time decided to go further with those violent methods to silence protests by removing all the students from their barricades.
Following his Cuban mentors, he plays a very risky double standard game — appearing as pro-dialogue to project a better image to the international public opinion, especially to his regional colleagues, but not stopping his brutal internal repression.
For UNASUR the Venezuela situation is a real challenge. In the past, this organization, created mainly to advance Brazilian regional interests, showed a biased reaction when facing different situations.
They punished Paraguay, suspending it as a full member, when its Senate legally removed President and Bishop Fernando Lugo a couple of years ago, but they practically did nothing when after the death of President Chávez the regime decided to violate the Constitution in order to facilitate Maduro’s rise to power.
And again later, when they did not support opposition demands for a proper auditing of the votes in the most recent and controversial presidential election.
For many analysts, that lack of legitimacy and abandonment by the region were the main causes for the strong and sometimes violent actions that political and social leaders, especially university students, have organized to combat what they consider a flagrant violation of democracy.
To remedy it, the regional powers and the Vatican will have to balance the situation and convince both extremes that a middle way is possible. The opposition must wait out the legal mandates and follow the constitutional clauses, instead of provoking either a resignation or removal of the chavista regime — a regime they consider extremely inefficient and corrupt.
On the other hand, the government must understand that they are ruling a democracy, which means the respect for others' opinions, a free press, private property, and the right to protest against abuses. They have to dismantle the huge and powerful network of armed paramilitary gangs. They have to release all of the political prisoners. They have to act as truly independent country and not as a colony of the Cuban gerontocracy, the real puppeteers from Havana.
But in addition, what Maduro must do now, if he really wants to save the dialogue, is to stop immediately his cynic behavior of promoting and declaring love for the benefit of outsiders, but acting with violence, resentment, and vengeance inside his borders.
That double standard will only allow him to buy some time, but it will surely destroy any possibility of bringing a definitive peace and shared coexistence in the land of Bolívar.
Luis Rosales was elected as the youngest state representative in Mendoza, Argentina, in 1989. In 2011 he was candidate for governor in Mendoza, representing Compromiso Federal, a union of three local and national conservative parties. He is the Latin American partner of Dick Morris. Together they have worked in more than a dozen presidential campaigns around the region. They have written the book “El Poder,” about their experiences in Latin America and other parts of the world. To read more of Luis Rosales' reports, Go Here Now.
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