Friday, May 14, 2021

No need to hold your breath on oppo/regime negotiations

 A few days ago I was writing about the regime apparent willingness to consider that maybe, it was an hypothetical hypothesis that well, you know, we may talk to someone in Guaido's office to see if we could borrow the pencil sharpener.....

And then we got Guaido making a rather dramatic statement as to be willing to ask for lifting a few sanctions AFTER the regime shows positive concrete signs of serious negotiations with preliminary results. In a Tweeter thread I posted on that:

And then we have Maduro accepting to negotiate through the EU and Norway intermediaries, though adding a suitable set of insults towards Guaido. It is to be noted that according to Ultimas Noticias, a pro regime newspaper, he cited a misleading Tweet from EFE, the Spanish press agency where it says that Guaido has proposed to eliminate sanctions. Guaido never said that, and at any case he would ask for a partial suspension of sanctions AFTER the regime makes concessions first. Then again EFE has not much credibility when reporting on Venezuela, only too often to burnish the image of the regime.

While we are discussing pro regime news outlets, Ultimas noticias writes that Jorge Rodriguez, head of the "novel" national assembly will negotiate once the opposition has beaten its mea culpa. That is, he wants the opposition to acknowledge its mistakes and crimes, that there should be no amnesia __ and then we negotiate. One has to admire the ability of chavismo to commit all sorts of crimes, including those against humanity, and pretend that the real criminals are others. The chutzpah of these guys will never cease to surprise.

Lets pass on the fact that the regime is the one most interested into lifting sanctions since those ones are largely directed at people inside the regime hierarchy, where their ill acquired riches are often blocked on off shore accounts. They want the loot back....

Maduro and Rodriguez are contradicting each other? The regime has not made up its mind? Can it make up its mind?

Whatever it is we must understand that the only ones willing to do a serious negotiation are those in the opposition. This one has not only something to gain out of successful negotiations, but it also cares about the humanitarian crisis inside the country. Or at least it cares way more than the regime who is still unwilling to establish a coherent vaccination plan against Covid, for a burning example. Yes, that is right, Venezuela is now dead last in the number of vaccines applied. Any time soon a Venezuelan variant is about to appear!!!!!

For the regime on the other hand the lone objective of negotiation is to give in as little as possible so that its leadership gets to recover its funds and travel outside to spend them in "la vida alegre". Period.

Needless to say that I am not holding my breath whatsoever.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

A kleptocracy starts facing reality?

In the past few weeks a few strange signs have been happening for a regime that supposedly has all controls in hands. A regime that has made a point to sabotage any negotiation, to deny the existence of its political opposition, a regime ready to do anything for its survival has given timid signs of negotiating. Before you get your hopes up keep in mind that until now the small concessions made are easily reversible without much damage toward the inner base of the regime.

These first sign was related with Covid, in spite of the heartless approach of the regime towards its victims. Namely it was about agreements to obtain help for Covid testing and vaccines. This is still a work in progress but that the regime accepted to hold discrete talks with the opposition was already something.

Then a couple of days ago some US citizens, directors at Citgo, were released from their Caracas jail to be held in their homes.  These men were held as hostages against the Trump sanctions. But it did not work. Sanctions held.

And a greater surprise was the acknowledgement by the regime of some of its crimes. Selected few of course, but those that had quite an echo outside of Venezuela. Though these admissions were limited on context, just as "worthy of further examination". But that the regime accepts to even talk about these crimes is progress.

The biggest surprise may have been the agreement between the World Food Program and Venezuela. See, both Maduro and Guaido appeared with its chair, David Beasley. BOTH had their tweet pic. And thousand of Venezuelan children may soon receive lunch at school, hopefully lowering the dropout rate.

And then today's surprise, a new electoral board CNE has been named . Even though the regime could have had a 5 out of 5 names in it, it will be 3 chavistas and 2 opposition (well, we will see how much of an opposition they are). Clearly the regime is accepting to open up to elections that may have some meaning, though do not think that 2 out of 5 at the CNE is enough to ensure free and fair elections, far from it...

What gives? Rather than discussing the details of these developments let's look at the reasons why the regime is begrudgingly making marginal concessions.  Certainly there is the Covid crisis, the bankrut country, its economy in shambles, the loss of territorial control in large swaths of the country, sanctions and what not to force the Maduro gang to the table. But the regime has shown once and again its disregard for the well being of the Venezuelan people. The kleptocracy cum drug traffickers are strictly on survival mode in order to retain power at all cost. 

What gives in my opinion is Biden holding on the Trump line over China and doubling down on Putin. See, the regime has no notion on what state interests are: since Chavez all foreign policy was guided by the interests of Chavez.  But in spite of all its bravado, Trump expressed a bipartisan policy of confronting Russia and China. In his first 100 days Biden has talked tough on China and even called Putin a killer, pushing further that bipartisan agreement. The table has been set, the rivalry between China and the US is now #1 priority, with Putin close behind.

How does this affect Venezuela? Look at a world map and figure out how far from Beijing and Moscow Caracas is. And how close are Syria and Crimea to Moscow and how close the Indian and Pacific Oceans to essential Chinese trade routes. Neither China nor Russia will go to the front to defend Venezuela. In a real confrontation these countries have much more important priorities than Venezuela, a bankrupt and corrupt country whose only interest today is to be used to goad the US. Any LatAm country on the Pacific is way more important to China than Venezuela, and Venezuela simply too expensive for Russia to support non stop. This one, by the way, turns out to be not such a great ally of Maduro according to the limited supply of Sputnik V vaccine it is sending. But I digress.

Thus it is quite possible that someone inside the regime has realized that now automatic support from Russia or China is not guaranteed. Even Iran and Turkey may not be such reliable friends anymore. Time to shift gears? Maybe it is time to be serious about discussing some sort of arrangement with the US?