Friday, May 17, 2019

Venezuelans negotiating in Oslo -- both sides (May 17, 2019)

Diplomatic efforts to reach a negotiated settlement between Venezuela's government and political opposition continued yesterday in Norway, though the process is being kept largely under wraps. The Associated Press reports that details such as whether the opposing camps will meet directly are still unknown. (See yesterday's briefs.)

Norway's government confirmed its role as mediator this morning, reports Efecto Cocuyo. Norway, which is not part of the European Union, does not recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president, and has been a prominent voice calling for a negotiated solution to Venezuela's crisis. It has mediated in negotiations between Israel and Palestine, and between Colombia and the FARC. The U.N. gave its full support to the process, yesterday. (Efecto Cocuyo)

Several meetings have already been held in a secret Oslo location, mediated by the Norwegian foreign minister, following intial contacts carried out in Cuba. The Maduro delegation is comprised of Communication Minister Jorge Rodríguez and Miranda state governor Héctor Rodríguez. The opposition is represented by National Assembly second vice president Stalin González, former lawmaker Gerardo Blyde, and former minister Fernando Martínez Mottola, according to Norwegian press. (Efecto Cocuyo)

Guaidó confirmed that the opposition had sent representatives to Oslo, but emphasized that he would not lend himself to "false negotiations." Until now the political opposition had resisted entering talks with the government, pointing to previous failed instances of dialogue in which Venezuela's Maduro administration appeared to play for time.

Just over half the population supports the idea of negotiations between the two sides, according to a new GBAO poll. (Efecto Cocuyo)

The Associated Press notes other simultaneous outreach efforts, notably the International Contact Group for Venezuela, which sent a mission in Caracas this week. Representatives met with President Nicolás Maduro and were planning a meeting with Guaidó.

Also, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland met in Havana with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, who tweeted that Cuba was prepared to contribute to dialogue on Venezuela. (Efecto CocuyoReuters)

Indeed, the U.S. Trump administration should pressure Cuba to support a transition in Venezuela, argues Jorge Castañeda in a New York Times op-ed.

More from Venezuela
  • Negotiation is the only way to reach a pacific, political resolution to Venezuela's crisis. But it is not the only possible outcome, according to a new Friedrich Ebert Siftung report. Mónica Hirst, Carlos Luján, Carlos Romero y Juan Gabriel Tokatlian analyze possible non-negotiated scenarios, ranging from implosion of the Maduro government, to a military coup, to civil war. 
  • Threats are unlikely to achieve a peaceful resolution. "A “multilateral leveraging” strategy – in other words, a commitment from the international community to provide both the opposition and the regime incentives to negotiate – offers a far better alternative," argue Samuel Handlin and Michael McCarthy at Americas Quarterly.
  • A purely electoral exit to the crisis is impossible, because Venezuela is also a failed state, argues José Ignacio Hernández G. in a New York Times Español op-ed. Holding free and fair elections will require a transition to a functional and institutional State first, he writes.
  • Former Venezuelan intelligence chief Manuel Cristopher Figuera said a Sebin officer found dead this week was assassinated. (Efecto Cocuyo)
News Briefs

  • Guatemala's Constitutional Court postponed a challenge to Sandra Torres' presidential run due to allegations that she accepted illegal financing in her 2015 campaign. The magistrates were supposed to address the case on Wednesday. Yesterday they postponed the case for a further two weeks -- the election is June 16. (Prensa Libre)
  • Torres is the main beneficiary of Constitutional Court rulings this week that eliminated her two main competitors for the presidency -- former attorney general Thelma Aldana and right-wing Zury Ríos. (Nómada, see yesterday's post.)
  • Two and a half years after Colombia's government signed a historic peace deal with the FARC, many promises haven't been kept and the prospect of a true and lasting peace remains elusive, reports the New York Times. As many as 3,000 fighters have taken up arms again, and the government's pledge to develop rural areas remains largely unfulfilled. Since the peace deal was signed, at least 500 activists and community leaders have been killed, and more than 210,000 people displaced from their homes amid the continuing violence.
  • Supporters of the 2016 peace deal with the FARC praised this week's judicial decision not to extradite a former guerrilla commander accused of drug trafficking to the U.S. But the decision might damage Colombia’s relationship with the United States, which is already concerned that Colombia isn't doing enough to stem narcotics trade, reports the Economist. (See yesterday's post.)
  • A Guatemalan toddler died this week after being detained by U.S. border patrol. He is the fourth minor known to have died after being detained by border agents since December, reports the Associated Press.
  • New U.S. sanctions against Cuba will only slow regime change there, argues the Economist, noting the government can blame shortages caused by Venezuela's economic crisis on U.S. measures. (See Monday's post.)
  • Rio de Janeiro police are increasingly shooting into favelas from helicopters, part of a violent crackdown on crime with questionable legality, reports the Guardian.
  • Brazilian mining giant Vale warned that another tailings dam is at risk of bursting -- just months after a dam failure killed 230 people, reports the BBC.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's education reform rolls back attempts to implement merit based hiring for teachers, according to the Economist. (See Wednesday's briefs.)
  • AMLO is wildly popular, but his administration might itself be a rollback on Mexico's democratic breakthrough of 2000, according to Foreign Affairs.
  • Argentina's October presidential elections are too close to call according to recent polls that put current President Mauricio Macri head to head with former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. For the Economist the question is: "Can Mr Macri’s promise of technocratic reform still beat Ms Fernández’s populist nationalism?"
  • Fernández faces a slew of corruption trials, which supporters say the charges are politically motivated. The first is set to start next week. (Associated Press)
  • The main wild-card in the upcoming electoral race in Argentina -- candidates must register by June 22 -- is whether septuagenarian former economy minister Roberto Lavagna could provide a third option to break the Macri-Kirchner polarization. (Americas Quarterly)

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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