Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 15 July 2019 — I confess that I am an unrepentant “dialoguer”. This is what the most radical sectors disparagingly call those who favor peaceful, agreeable and gradual changes – political dialogue by means of – over the violence of coups d’état and the revolutions of any ideological label.
In fact, in any moderately healthy democracy politics is essentially “dialogue”, where parliaments are the natural scenario of debates where the direction of nations are resolved. It is well known that even in conditions of dictatorship it has also been possible to find peaceful solutions to achieve democracy through dialogue as a political tool, as happened in late-Franco Spain – against the violence of fundamentalist sectors – and in the Chile of Augusto Pinochet, two of the most notorious examples of the effectiveness of dialogue.
A successful dialogue is one that manages to establish mechanisms to overcome political and social tensions, especially when these affect governance in countries where democratic institutions have been broken or – even worse – repression, terror, torture and murder have been systematized as resources of a dictatorship clinging to Power, as is the case of Venezuela.
The exhaustion and failure of the system, the irrevocable economic and constitutional crisis, the majority rejection of the usurpation of power by a mafioso group – with Maduro at the helm – the majority support of that population to a peaceful solution before military intervention, the national and international recognition of the opposition leadership, and the mediation of international actors in the process are basic conditions for the potential viability of dialogue leading to a negotiated solution in Venezuela.
These premises, however, are not enough. The failure of the attempts of dialogue between the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro and the opposition in the last three years, mainly due to the failure of Executive’s willingness to abandon power and submit to the popular will at the polls, overshadows somewhat the expectations on the results of the current process of talks, which this time is being developed with the mediation of Norway and representatives of the European Union, and which has the participation of the interim president, Juan Guaidó.
Also contributing to reasonable doubts is the little transparency of this process, not only on the part of the representatives of Maduro, whose statements on the results of the negotiations contradict those of the opposition, but also for the never-explained change of position before the operating dialogue of the president in charge of Venezuela and, in general, by the absence of guarantees that, this time, the agreed agreements are fulfilled.
Let’s review: On January 25th, 2019, the newspaper El Espectador published a statement by Guaidó in response to Nicolás Maduro – who had said he “would be willing to dialogue with the opposition leader” – to which Guaidó had responded that it would not happen “given false dialogues.” A few weeks later, in a review published by CNN, Juan Guaidó once again maintained that “With Nicolás Maduro there is no possibility of dialogue, (…) because he has already demonstrated in previous situations, such as in 2017 in the Dominican Republic, that he used it to mock the citizens.”
However, on May 6th, after rumors broke out about the presence of the opposition at the dialogue table in Oslo, and after the ruling party’s boasting in attempt to show the event as its own achievement, Juan Guaidó confirmed that, in effect, the opposition had “sent several people to Norway to lay the foundations for a possible negotiation with the government of Nicolás Maduro”, although he stressed that any agreement would include the exit of the usurper, the establishment of a transitional government and the call for free elections with the presence of international observers.
The acceptance of the dialogue by Guaidó provoked both critical and supportive reactions within the opposition, as well as on the part of its allies in this region. However, as long as the unity of most of the opposition is maintained around the three points of consensus raised by the interim President, dialogue must be maintained as an option, although without renouncing the street demonstrations and all forms of pressure against the dictatorship.
The truth is that, for the moment, Nicolás Maduro has not shown any signs of goodwill or a negotiating spirit. Political prisoners remain imprisoned; repression in the hands of the paramilitary bodies, torturers in police barracks and other thugs who continue to sow terror among Venezuelans remain intact; and several of the closest collaborators and officials claim that there will be no elections in Venezuela and that Maduro will continue in power, statements which the Executive has not been bothered to refute, so far.
Meanwhile, the opposition has closed ranks around Juan Guaidó’s proposal as the sole candidate for the possible presidential elections that – at the closing of the third round of talks, held in Barbados – would have to be held between February and April of next year with a completely renewed National Electoral Council. For its part, the ruling Socialist Party of Venezuelan Unity (PSUV) would try to wash its face by proposing as candidate the current governor of the state of Miranda, Chavez supporter Héctor Rodríguez.
Apparently, there is finally something cooking on the table. The days and weeks to come will tell us if in reality progress is made based on the still secret agreements and steps taken by the parties, or if the current dialogue ends up being another magic trick of the Venezuelan dictatorship to, once again, evade the expectations, demands, and the hopes of its people.
Translated by Norma Whiting