Photo: retrieved

Iván Duque has been president of Colombia for under two months, time spent trying to determine his government’s position on key issues, with mixed results due to the internal strains of his governing coalition. These strains about Venezuela have recently come to light, because of recent comments from two key appointees: the ambassadors to the U.S. and to the OAS.

Duque’s approach relies on a different method to those of Santos government’s short-term approaches to Venezuela. Early on, Santos focused on decreasing tensions with Chávez and trying to get limited economic benefits, such as restarting commercial trade and finalizing dollar payments to Colombian exporters who had sold goods to Venezuelan companies.

These strains about Venezuela have recently come to light, because of recent comments from two key appointees: the ambassadors to the U.S. and to the OAS.

Then, the approach was to toe the line with Maduro during the peace talks. Later, Santos dialed up the anti-Maduro rhetoric as the peace process came to an end and Colombian public opinion demanded a tougher approach. Despite these significant changes within his coalition, Santos and his Foreign Affairs minister kept the issue under control.

While Duque signalled that he would take a tougher line on Venezuela during the campaign, recent comments by ambassadors Francisco Santos (USA) and Alejandro Ordóñez (OAS) have put the spotlight on what “tougher”  means and how far it will go.

Colombian politics has dedicated a lot of speech time to Venezuela. But, this is only tangentially related to the actual, real country that borders it. In Colombian political discourse, “Venezuela” has become a proxy for different domestic issues, such as the peace process or left-right ideology. This is why it’s so common for the Colombian right not to talk about what to do with Venezuela but rather about how not to become Venezuela.

The clashing forces

Former Vice-President Francisco Santos Calderón (Juan Manuel’s cousin, because Colombia) was appointed to be Colombia’s ambassador in Washington. Last week, he stated that a key issue in U.S.-Colombia relations would be dealing with the Venezuelan government. Later he emphasized, with respect to military action, that “all options should be on the table”  and yes, he was talking fairly narrowly about direct intervention.

The issue at hand is that Pacho Santos is well known for his peculiar, volatile personality and his aggressive discourse. Years ago, he famously suggested that student protesters could be dealt with by “using volts [of electricity] on the kids and arresting them.

After the statements in Washington, President Duque was widely quoted contradicting his own ambassador, denying any interest in military action and insisting on multilateral diplomacy. This isn’t the first time a Duque appointee freelances policy. On issues such as tax policy, these confusions may be trial balloons to test public opinion, but they become a notable issue regarding foreign relations and national defense, where the presidency has more direct authority.

The differences between the ambassadors and President Duque are more about personality than policy.

Meanwhile, the new ambassador to the OAS, Alejandro Ordóñez, was touring Cúcuta joined by OAS Secretary General Almagro, who also insisted on the “all options” approach to Venezuela. On Sunday, Ordóñez echoed these statements: “As President Duque said, it’s necessary to highlight the drama of the humanitarian crisis, which must be addressed from the regional perspective and within a multilateral perspective. We must insist on this, in order to face the Venezuelan political crisis with determination”, assured the now diplomat in Washington. Ordóñez is a staunch religious and social conservative and his views reflect the tensions inside the government coalition.

The differences between the ambassadors and President Duque are more about personality than policy, as there are some interesting parallelisms in terms of people and power coalitions with the U.S. administration.

While the mainstream approach in Bogotá and Washington regarding Venezuela is to be cautious and skeptical of direct action, there are some volatile protagonists pushing for a direct intervention, which is why there’s growing concern in Colombia.

Just this past weekend, the front cover of Colombia’s Semana, one of its main political magazines, is about the risk of conflict in Venezuela. Newspaper El Espectador featured articles and op-eds strongly pushing back against military action. Furthermore, its editorial evaluating Duque’s performance cites the contradictions between the ambassador and the president as a key weakness of Duque’s government.

Making predictions is terrible business, but I still believe there are significant sectors of the government who will keep pushing for a more cautious approach.

But, that doesn’t mean that talking out loud about an intervention won’t change things.

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  1. Colombia is the last country interested in direct intervention in Venezuela. For all the nuisances that Venezuelan emigration is causing, it would look like a trickle compared to what a direct military intervention would cause in terms of mass displacement.
    The second problem is that, neither Colombia nor any other Andean country have the capabilities needed to setup a multinational force capable of handling a country the size of Venezuela; not to mention the billions needed to undertake the so-called reconstruction effort. The only country that could, eventually, be up to the task is Brazil, but Brazilians are in no mood to pay attention to external problems due to the size of their internal political and social crisis.
    The third problem is that, even having the appetite for a direct intervention in Washington, Bogotá and Brasilia (the opposite is true), the main obstacle to intervene in Venezuela is, in hierarchical order, Venezuelan opposition disunity, at least 2 million illegal arms with at least 100K in the hands of paramilitaries organised by the government, not to mention what could happen with the arsenal of the FFAA once this one is disbanded by a military intervention, and last but not least, the 50-70 billion dollars needed to rebuilt the country.

    • Antinoo, First of all, Venezuelan emigration will continue on a massive scale as Maduro destroys the private sector and install COMMUNISM in Venezuela. As Duque said: the only way to end the migration crisis is regime change and that is the cold hard truth. So whether you like it or not, massive migration will continue if the international community listens to douchebag leftists who just want us to sit around with our thumbs up our ass and do nothing.

      Secondly, Venezuela is not Iraq. As Trump noted, these guys will crumble in minutes. The Venezuelan army is not an organized fighting force. It is just a bunch of disorganized criminals who will run like gallinas when you take out command and control. Furthermore, this will be surgical, and not a traditional invasion force like you (and the Colombian left) are making this out to be.

      And as far as Brazil, Bolsonaro has a good chance of winning because Brazilians are sick and tired of Socialismo del Siglo XXI and want a government of law and order based on family values.

      As far as reconstruction, again, we are not talking about Iraq. We are talking about bringing in the IMF and World bank, lifting exchange and price controls, protecting private property, selling off state owned assets. The reconstruction has more to do about changes in policy more so than our neighbors sending construction crews to Venezuela.

      As far as the Milicianos, Colectivos, FARC, ELN and a few Hezbollah agents. Yes, bring in the blue helmets. However the Milicianos and many colectivos will just keep their guns and take up a life of crime rather than upholding a government. Law enforcement and security will be the bigger challenge, but is achievable. Plus Duque and Bolsonaro know that Venezuela is currently a safe haven for these scum. So then this security issue in Venezuela because a geopolitical issue.

      Furthermore, as Bill Bass says below, this has little to do with following opinion polls, because the moment Venezuela starts a provocation (and FANB at the Colombian border), Colombians will rally around the flag. And as they see a successful operation in Venezuela, they will rally around Duque–which sounds like your worst nightmare since what you wrote above might as well have been wrote by Petro.

      • @Guacharaca,
        I cannot pretend I know everything, as many compatriots do. My comment just reflects the opinion of several organisations/knowledgeable people about a potential military intervention in Venezuela. I’m not sure they are “douchebags leftists”:

      • Very well said. The elimination of ridiculous exchange controls (which are apparently designed to deprive the population of any kind of viable currency), followed by the return of seized property if possible and if not then well managed open-bid sales, followed by guarantees of private property, and a few other basic principles, are the solution, and there are sound and sane voices calling for just that.

        “The reconstruction has more to do about changes in policy more so than our neighbors sending construction crews to Venezuela.” (Gaucharaca, 2018.)

        I haven’t bothered to find out how to use html to bold text and all because I think the thought behind the words is the important thing, but if I knew how to bold, your one sentence above would be well worth bolding. It applies universally.

      • As the other guy said, even if Bolsonaro wins, Not even Brazil has a competent army able to carry out a surgical operation (that’s what 20 years of socialism does to your army). Second, Besides maybe Colombia and Brazil, NO COUNTRY in Southamerica has the capability to carry out an invasion and occupation, let alone pay for the reconstruction (it’s pretty obvious you haven’t realized the Chavismo has abandoned the country’s infrastructure, hence it will have to be rebuilt IF ORDER IS TO BE REIMPOSED. Your comment on the Blue Helmets is also laughable. WHERE has this mythical force imposed order? You’d have better chances tasking colombians with that.

        By the way, what Brazil and Colombia or even the US have to win from such an operation besides bags of corpses and billion plus expenses? Unless the studges in Caracas make a stupid and provocative move, NO ONE either in Brazilia, Bogotá or Washington will have an excuse or a motivation to mobilize, especially against the wishes of their populace who will see such an operation as a lose and lose proposition (lose life, limb and money to release a , in all likelihood, ungrateful polity who will harbor resentment for years to come if the invasion and the necessary cleansing takes place).

        The solution will have to come from Venezuela itself. Either that or start to pray for the political gangsters in Caracas to make a provocative enough move…

  2. The notion that government decisions are taken having regard to their rational interests is naive in the extreme , they happen because passions take the upper hand under circumstances which kindle confrontation ……..or because there is some political capital to be made taking such decision however irrational ……, I ve read a lot of history and its amazing how decisions are taken by haphazard ocurrence , for example the decision to invade Iraq (the first time)was taken by president Bush Sr against the cautious advise of his top military advisors quite unexpectedly , one minute he wasnt too sure about it and the next he just announced his decision as if it was inevitable …….!! You can make all the arguments for or against it (and the former are not necessarily silly), but in the end happenstance and passions turn the wheel of history ………. Oh and by the way there is a fully detailed well backed plan for the ‘day after’ including a commitment for the initial 20 billion $ required to buoy the countrys economy so that at least it can hold itself above the water line…!!

  3. Duque and Macri were the only decent guys at the freaking UN. Tough, sincere, using the right words to describe Klepto-NarcoChinazuela. Still, those 2 brave new presidents and Almagro are also diplomats and politicians, though, failing to call the Chavistoide Thugs what they are: Simple Criminals, Murderers and Thieves, responsible for a GENOCIDE, mass Exodus and a flagrant humanitarian tragedy. And their political entourages are of course even worse, always politically correct. A DRUG TRADE CRIMINAL state, comprised of countless Thugs, Asesinos, yes, Mega-Thieves and common Criminals, a Tropical KLEPTOCRACY disguised as “socialism”, or “revolution” and even “democracy”.

    Will these despicable politicians and putrid diplomats call a spade a spade, ever? Of course not.
    The best they can come up with: “Venezuela is a Dictatorship responsible for a humanitarian crisis that must return to Democracy”. Trump even calls it “failed Socialism”. That’s it.

    The rest of the UN is a bunch of useless demagogues, leftists for the most part, stinking freaking diplomats, Liars.. Useless, double-faced, always politically-correct freaking diplomats. CRAP, all of them. Talking parrots wearing suits and ties that never ever get anything DONE. Beyond pathetic, many of them should go to jail for MOJONEROS y HABLA-PAJAS. Professional mojoneros y hablapajas.

    Therefore, nothing will materialize out these pathetic UN meetings. Hot air, as usual. It’ll take years for any ‘international court’ to condemn the Kleptozuelan Criminals. And so what? They will continue to rule and laugh, and kill, with their fortunes safely stashed away, anyway.

    Narco-Kleptozuela will continue to be in shambles, worse than Cuba or Haiti, yet a bit more stable, in decades to come. Because the last Million -or so- of malcontent people will leave, the immigration situation will stabilize, Billions in Remesas will arrive to feed Chavismo, and the Astronomical DRUG TRADE few ever talk about will continue to flourish, which is what greases the entire armed forces and its 1300 “Generals” no one ever talks about either. Plus the entire, corrupt Gualdia Nazional Bolibanana, Sebin, and other “authorities”, as many retards call them. You see, it’s a “socialist” KLEPTOCRACY indeed, with THOUSANDS of top thieves, and MILLIONS of complicit pueblo-people uneducated thugs included and participating in the KLEPTOCRACY. Thus, it will continue to prevail and finally sustain itself, decade after decade, guiso after guiso, remesa tras remesa, because they share what they Steal with thousands of “generals” and “el pueblo” in our tropical, criminal, illiterate KLEPTOCRACY.

    Soon, after the 5 Million people Mass Exodus is over, there’s plenty of DRUG money and Remesas to feed the corrupt, enchufados, the millions of beggars and leeches, the average pueblo-people left on Chavistoide Payroll. Complicit Zombies and thieves, at all levels, just like in Cuba. The “international Community” will calm down, and accept Klepto-Chinazuela as just another 5th world Shithole, as The Donald likes to call those, another failed State, and the ‘diplomatic’ talks with Nicolasno Narco-Cabello, DelcyWhore and Chavismo Criminals will resume. Because that’s how international freaking Politics work. Ask around in Africa, Haiti or Cuba. That’s how inclusive Kleptocracies succeed, decade after decade.

    • Duque is not decent person! He is a puppet in the hands of Narco Uribe!
      Don’t be mistaken about Duque! He has no personality of his own! 😈👎🏿

        • All the Petro trolls are on the Arepa today hahaha. Please Judy Lynn come join your Colombian CastroChavista friends, it is all too fun tearing them down!!!!

          • As far as I can tell, this year Judi Lynn has stopped posting about Venezuela in Democratic Underground. Even Judi Lynn has her standards.

          • “As far as I can tell, this year Judi Lynn has stopped posting about Venezuela in Democratic Underground. Even Judi Lynn has her standards.”

            I commend you for having the patience to read that site. I try every once in a while but have to back off when my eyes start bleeding.

          • Eduarfo, I didn’t realize you were just another Chavista out for a little trolling or I would not have bothered responding. My bad.

      • Duque is not decent person! He is a puppet in the hands of Narco Uribe!
        The problem in Colombia with claiming your opponent has dirty hands is that in most cases you are guilty of hypocrisy, as very few have clean hands in Colombia. Petro belonged to M-19, an organization that kidnapped and killed Supreme Court Justices. Therefore Petro fans, when they accuse Uribe of having dirty hands, are blatant hypocrites.

  4. I’m torn about the “saying too much” and “all options are on the table” rhetoric.

    Why the Hell does anyone want to telegraph a punch to their enemy? If I was going to punch a guy in the mouth, I sure as heck wouldn’t say, “Well, I might punch you in the mouth… we’ll see how it goes…”

    On the other hand, Maduro needs to know that there are REAL, very nasty prospects that await him and his ilk if he doesn’t come around. God forbid anyone follow through with actual sanctions, including military. This is why the world laughed at the United States under Carter, Clinton and Obama. All talk talk talk, but never walked the walk. The reason things are such a mess in North Korea is because NOBODY, up until recently, called The Little Troll’s bluff.

    • There are no good options left , either an intervention gives Venezuela some chance of avoiding its total collapse as a country and getting its house in order , or the regime makes sure thats the outcome of no one doing anything ….!! If you have nothing to lose and maybe something to win , where is the downside ??

  5. Colombia can’t control it’s own territory, let alone engage in an “invasion” of Venezuela.

    Guapo, Obama did launch a few missiles at Qaddafi, and that did lead to his demise. Libya will be a mess for years to come. Trump already launched a few in Syria, just to say hello.

  6. What the “international community” should be doing, (if Macri, Duque, Chile’s puppet and Trump’s advisers aren’t excessively retarded and out of touch with Kleptozuela’s reality:)

    BRIBE a good portion of the Kleptozuelan top “generals”, and their top lieutenants. Thousands of crooks in the armed forces. offer them more MONEY than they currently get, amnesty, and various benefits, asylum, passports, anything they want. Cash, gold, properties worldwide. That’s the only “diplomacy” Kleptozuelans understand, including the filthy, corrupt “Armed Forces” and their 1300 “Generals”.

    Incite a military coup from within. In Kleptozuela, that’s the only way. They are obviously spineless thieves with the real power, the guns and the troops. GREASE THEM. That’s what you do with corrupt monkeys like the ones in Chinazuela’s military. Be sure Cuban intelligence isn’t alerted. Under the table. Offer them Millions of US$, Euros, apartments in Paris or the Caribbean. Protection, whatever they want. For them and also for their immediate, crooked families. CASH. That’s Kleptozuela’s only language.

    Chavismo depends on the corrupt Military Thugs to stay in power. Padrinita and his 1300 Monkeys with the tanks and planes are still loyal to the Narco-Regime only because they are BRIBED by Maduro and Cabello, mainly with DRUG MONEY. And scared of losing their stolen millions, privileges, and jail time.

    Double what they get, and offer them safe retirements. As long as they capture or kill Niscolasno and his 12 disciples. Offer Rewards: 1 cool Million US$ for DelcyWhore’s ugly head, for example. 2 Million for Narco-Cabello.
    IF the the US Congress cared, if the European Union really cared, if Colombia, Chile and others really cared for the remains of Venezuela, and for their own interests, THAT is what they should be doing, covertly. Through CIA and FBI agents, through Colombian intelligence, infiltrate and bribe the top, filthy, Kleptozuelan military thugs.

    But that would take real humanitarian concern and lots of money. Takes time, planning and some shooting among rival “generals” for a strong insurgence to succeed. And sadly, Kleptozuela ain’t that important for the US Congress or the CIA’s Homeland Security. They know most of the galactic drug trade would eventually resume in various forms and countries if Chavismo is knocked out. And humanitarian problems, poverty and crime in Latin America’s “shitholes” would continue, anyway. Too many similar failed 5th world countries worldwide, too many disasters to handle. That’s why military muscle and BRIBES are still the last “options on the table”, as retard Trump calls it. But that’s the only way to extirpate the Chavista cancer now. $$$$$$$ for the military thugs.

    • While I usually do not read your posts as they are rambling and incoherent, bribing thousands of criminals with even more cash asylum and properties and “anything they want” is probably one of the stupidest things I have read on here.

      • Tom, Gotta like the name! Lol. I agree that mass bribes is not a solution although a few very well placed and very well timed bribes could be useful if and when any incursion by a coalition alliance of neighboring countries should take place. I do find it frustrating that those neighboring countries are still unwilling to band together to clean out this cancer that is spreading it’s diseased cells throughout LatAm.

        If these countries are not willing to take ownership of this problem then I think Maduro can comfortably settle in for the long term.

        • Agreed, Maybe some kind of amnesty for SOME but only those who cooperate and help make sure justice is served. There must be justice for the way the country has been looted and destroyed and the armed forces are largely to blame so they must be held accountable. There really has to be a solution soon or you can count on Maduro getting fatter and greyer and he will be around for years to come.

        • You are either ignorant or braindead. For a sucessful military intervention you require a TRAINED AND CAPABLE military, LOGISTICS, LOTS OF MONEY and WILL. Especially since you are not expected to get anything from such an intervention. IN the region only TWO COUNTRIES might have the capability to perform such an operation, however even for those countries, such a task would strain their coffers and in all likelihood cause a crises if the occupation takes more time than expected.

          That is unless what you talk about is to perform a Libya on Venezuela: Kill the current gangsters, finish the destruction of Venezuelan cities, withdraw and wait for the MILLIONS of refugees to come to your doors…

      • Well said Tom. Poeta is a troll plain and simple. His posts with such “clever” and demeaning phrases are a bore. When Bill Bass, John, MRubio, and many others (including Canuck) write a long reply it’s almost always worth reading. Ira has some funny and insightful comments. When he’s not overly wound-up or impaired and spracking hateful and incoherent nonsense. But Poeta’s superiority/ little Napoleon complex posting the same dribble day-after-day, post-after-post, shows a lot about his character. He is a troll. Cut, paste, repeate…ad nauseam.

      • Tom: What’s stupid is saying someone else’s opinion is stupid without explaining why, retard. Kool aid. another tard who doesn’t contribute a single original point. Zip. Nada.

        The idea as a last resort to BRIBE local Military thugs to aid a local insurgence or incite self-coup is nothing new. The CIA and many other European covert groups have been doing it for ever, worldwide. Heck, historically, bribing generals and troups from rival / problematic countries have been practiced since way before the Roman Empire, by the Chinese, the Greeks, Vikings, you name it.

        Heck even Bayly presented the idea just last night on freaking TV. If the idea to bribe the same thugs that Chavismo bribes – those corrupt military chiefs who have the guns and tanks and the real power – doesn’t make sense to you, at least explain why, both of you Einsteins.

        After everything else has failed, with a pathetic and complicit “opposition”, and considering the USA, Latin America or Europe are not willing to intervene themselves, the “bravo-pueblo” ain’t brave at at, tell me what, then, is your brilliant and original solution, RETARDS.

  7. Maduro, in his never-ending ignorance, told the international community what to do to remove him during his General Assembly speech yesterday.

    Which is to keep on doing what they’re doing, and keep up the threats against him and First Cunt Cilia, which includes military intervention or an internal coup. This is what they understand.

    Until the U.S. sends in the Marines, let them enjoy many sleepless nights knowing that it’s a very real possibility.

  8. The current trajectory that Venezuela is on, guarantees that some type of foreign, most likely US intervention is all but guaranteed.
    Nobody is predicting a recovery from the current downward spiral that is consuming the Venezuelan population. The current regime in Venezuela has a zero chance of fixing Venezuela. This regime is the cause of the crisis and must be removed.
    Infectious diseases are untreated, people are starving, the exodus is increasing in numbers. The humanitarian crisis is spilling over Venezuela’s borders and destabilizing the region.
    History has shown that the reluctance of politicians to act when first faced with a threat, results in much larger problems. If Hitler had been confronted when Germany first violated the restrictions placed on Germany after WW 1, Europe may have never experienced the continent destroying war that occurred. The immediate multi-national response to the Ebola epidemic in Africa demonstrates the benefits of sooner rather than later action.
    It would be prudent to establish a government in exile and plan for the exiled government to be installed in Venezuela as soon as possible. Promoting a military coup is simply replacing one gang of criminals with another. Expectations that the military will be capable of transforming Venezuela are foolish. The military controls large swaths of the Venezuelan economy. Everything the military controls is in some state of collapse.
    The longer the politicians wring their hands and speak of a democratic transition or encourage the military to initiate a coup, the more negatively the people of Venezuela and neighboring countries will be impacted.

    • “History has shown that the reluctance of politicians to act when first faced with a threat, results in much larger problems.” John, surely someone as measured and rational as yourself is not suggesting political incorrectness! I’m afraid I may to reconsider our friendship.

    • “History has shown that the reluctance of politicians to act when first faced with a threat, results in much larger problems. If Hitler had been confronted when Germany first violated the restrictions placed on Germany after WW 1, Europe may have never experienced the continent destroying war that occurred. The immediate multi-national response to the Ebola epidemic in Africa demonstrates the benefits of sooner rather than later action.”

      What a big joke. In its current state, Venezuela CANNOT PROJECT POWER or inflict any kind of damage on its neighbours. 20 years of Chavismo have reduced venezuela to the status of a beggar. It doesn’t have industry, cannot feed itself at all, spare parts are scarce, etc etc.

      Bad analogy. But at some point there will be a foreign intervention of sorts, unless the flow of immigrants stop.

  9. This is a much better written article than Rodrigo Palau’s previous endorsement of Petro, where Mr. Palau unsuccessfully tried to square the circle with his support of Petro. Mr. Palau informed us he “hated the FARC” while Petro had praised El Finado as a “great Latin American leader.” That “great Latin American leader” had, among other things, been a long-time supporter of the FARC. Anyone remember El Finado’s aborted attempt to send Venezuelan troops to the Colombian border in response to Colombia’s killing FARC leader Raul Reyes? Apparently Mr. Palau didn’t remember it.

    Or where Petro called Maduro “a dictator” but also considered Maduro’s Constituyente “vote” of July 30, 2017 to be a great example of democracy in action. As far as I know, Petro made no comment about Smartmatic’s reporting that there were at least a million fraudulent votes in the Constituyente.

    Or where Mr. Palau claimed “Petro and M-19 were never aligned with Cuba or their model.” It is well known that M-19 got Cuban support. Fidel will support those who don’t align with Cuba or the Cuban model? Yeah, right. Only in cloud-cuckoo-land.

    Petro’s support was lowest in Departments closest to Venezuela- Petro got only 27% in Santander del Norte- and greatest in those Departments farthest from Venezuela. Mr. Palau’s support of Petro, while living in Canada, thousands of miles away from Colombia, is consistent with this geographical demarcation of Petro support.

    • Correction of faulty memory: Petro got 18% of the vote in Norte de Santander. I can no longer access El Tiempo’s map of votes by Departments, but Wiki has come to the rescue.
      Correction: Consulates- for Colombians voting abroad- gave 70% of the vote which means that Mr. Palao bucked the trend.

      Highest % of votes for Petro were in the southwest corner of Colombia : Putumayo (70%), Nariño (65%) and Cauca(64%).,_2018

  10. @BT, I worry greatly for Colombia. In my opinion Petro represents the biggest threat to Colombia in many years. This includes FARC, ELN, AUC, M-19, Office of Envigado, etc.


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