The Barbados Pass/Fail

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It has been two months since I last wrote. My health concerns were certainly a distraction, but discussing the miasma of Venezuelan politics was certainly not encouraging.

However we reached this week a seminal point of sorts: it is the regime this time that walked away from the negotiation table. Who gains? Who lost?

For memory a few weeks ago under strong international pressure the regime and its democratic opposition decided to sit down at Barbados to negotiate some arrangement out of the political impasse we are in. Negotiate is the word, not dialogue. We are way past the dialogue stage which has been a failure for the opposition. And yet the D word remains an albatross across its neck since an hysterical opposition sector refuses to make the difference or to understand that the situation has changed. Such hysterics do not help interim president Guaido and his team. But I digress.

The fact of the matter is that those negotiations have been different from the start. First, clearly both sides had to be herded to Barbados, under the counsel of Norway.  Second, if previous reunions were rife with gossip and leaks, this one has been muted. Third, as it was before it is not only a few countries interested in the outcome: this time around as Venezuela is becoming a failed state there is a lot of incentive for many countries to follow up close.

The talks dragged for a month even though the opposition had threatened to walk away if some headway was not made within that time. Visibly something was happening as both parties remained seated across each other. But clearly the regime, the only one in position to make concessions, was starting to play its old game: gain time. The opposition real goal is simple: free and fair elections within 6 months, with Maduro out of office. Note: that Maduro is out of office does not mean the opposition rules over Venezuela, it could well be a more neutral chavista acceptable for both sides. What really matters here is that elections are clean AND can be held freely, that is, away of army interference. The polls advantage is so smashing in favor of the opposition that this one could tolerate a little bit of unresolved cheating issues and still win handsomely.

The regime in the end cannot accept any of that because it would start its unraveling. And such unraveling can only result in many of them meeting the courts of law, in Caracas or elsewhere.  Interestingly, to show the mind frame of the regime who truly believes they can pull a fast one once again, what has been blocking the regime seems to be more lifting the sanctions that block their stolen funds more that a safe heaven where to retire.

At any rate the US is starting to have enough of this show. The Europeans want a dialogue as a way to reach a solution that will favor their interests. Latin American countries want dialogue because, well, they are too scared to even enact some meaningful sanctions.  Note that these Latin countries wear the burnt of the destabilization factor that represents 4 million refugees and counting. And yet…

To speed up things, the US started to put its “most wanted” tag for drug traffic and terrorism on Tareck el Assaimi, once vice president of Maduro, currently minister of this or that (the ministers play an eternal game of musical chairs).  Then sanctions were applied directly to Maduro step sons. The regime still sat down in Barbados. But the US seems now to play on its own and last week the regime received a set of full sanctions that basically make it impossible to function, albeit letting the private sector in Venezuela to work on the side. This is not a small distinction: since all foreign currency is controlled by the regime, this one could stop the country falling into a final tail spin by letting the private sector revive. The US has been explicit about it: only business with the government is sanctioned, the private sector can bring in food and medicine. But the regime will not relent.

That was too much for the regime and it walked away from Barbados, proving that they are the ones that are blocking any meaningful political solution.

What happens next is pure speculation, but I am among those who think the regime failed and the opposition got a pass, even if some small groups like Maria Corina Machado radicals seem to have a completely different conclusion than mine.

At some point the regime will have to go back to Barbados and finally accept to yield at least on elections, that is letting the opposition control these.  Maduro could stay but some ministers will need to be changed and receive autonomy from Maduro.

That or “welcome failed state status”.

About the Author

Have lived and invested in Venezuela full time for the last eight years and visited for each of twelve years prior to that. Studied and closely followed developments in Venezuela since 1996.