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.
Tremendous breakthrough in #Caracas! @WFP will soon establish operations to provide school meals to 1.5 million of the most vulnerable children. All parties agree that we must always show up together for the people and the children of #Venezuela. Let's get to work. pic.twitter.com/LKuOpapgJj— David Beasley (@WFPChief) April 21, 2021
En mí reunión con el Director Ejecutivo del Programa Mundial de Alimentos, @WFPChief, le agradecí en nombre de los venezolanos el esfuerzo para que el @WFP_es pueda iniciar operaciones en el país y se pueda combatir el hambre que padecen millones de venezolanos. pic.twitter.com/abtZPnDJJN— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) April 20, 2021
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?