It’s Yet TBD If Senator Corker’s Plans Are a Backchannel or a Menace

The Boston Group and Republicans Bob Corker and Caleb McCarry, among others, have committed to the task of negotiating to solve the Venezuelan crisis, with a little resistance from certain opposition factions. Why? Because there’s no guarantee they won’t make it worse.

Photo: El Nuevo Herald retrieved

I was eating my favorite cereal when the news took me back to 2002: The Boston Group was meeting to find a solution to the crisis. However, today the crisis is no longer exclusively related to U.S. – Venezuela relations; but to the growing dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. And even though the same people are using the same tools for the same reason, the main actor is no longer William Delahunt, but Bob Corker.

This time, Corker, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, proposes a less confrontational approach towards Venezuela while opening a communication channel. In order to do so, he relies on the Boston Group, a tool that by itself will be ineffective.

Corker is a Republican politician extensively involved in foreign policy. Even though some may argue that his relations with Trump aren’t good, this is an intricate game to play, and Corker’s role seems to be reduced to gather information and open a backchannel with no political cost for Trump. This position would relieve Trump from having direct communication with Maduro while keeping up with his tough speech and iron fist against the Venezuelan government.

Corker’s role seems to be reduced to gather information and open a backchannel with no political cost for Trump.

But how does Corker manage to gather the necessary information to set the grounds for an eventual negotiation with no political cost? First, we need to take a look at the history of the Boston Group.

The Boston Group was created in 2002 after the vacío-de-poder/golpe/masacre, and it included a varied assortment of personalities that included Maduro, Cilia, Elvis Amoroso, Calixto Ortega, Tania D’Amelio, John Kerry, Gregory Meeks, Cass Ballenger, and William Delahunt, Alfonso Marquina, Jose Ramón Medina, Julio Montoya, and Enrique Márquez. Basically, it was conformed by the chavista faction (the one closest to Maduro), relevant U.S. politicians and some parliamentary opposition members.

However, there were two different hidden figures at the scene: One is the perfect definition of a ni-ni, the other purposely stood silently and is still a backdoor channel with Venezuela.

The first figure is Pedro Díaz Blum, a politician from Carabobo that never stood against the chavista regime but tried to act as a mediator between both sides. He keeps shaking hands with both sides, so no one really trusts him. Nevertheless, he coordinated the efforts to construct the Boston Group, and has since made every possible thing to make it come to life.

Certainly, this dance with chavismo can be suspicious. Yet, the liberation of Timothy Tracy and Joshua Holt are strong enough reasons for the U.S. to keep in touch with Díaz Blum. Overall, he seems to deliver quick results every time the U.S. has needed a backchannel with Venezuela.

But has he delivered? Is he actually responsible for the positive results?

The second figure is Caleb McCarry, one of the most professionalized Republicans in Latin America, with a special focus on Cuba and Venezuela. He’s been the operative link in many U.S. operations to solve the crisis in Venezuela. But most importantly, McCarry is the backchannel himself.

McCarry is the reason Corker traveled to Caracas with an agreement already in place last May. Corker’s reliance on results is no other than the confidence he has on McCarry.

McCarry is the reason Corker traveled to Caracas with an agreement already in place last May.

The opposition parties took different approaches to this matter. At first, VP, PJ and Causa R rejected the possibility of a dialogue. Meanwhile, Vente rejected the visit; while UNT, AD and AP stood silently, even after Albán’s assassination. However, it seems the opposition isn’t even relevant to this story, as they are unable to create internal pressure and offer no alternative of a feasible government.

In conclusion, Corker’s part can result in more oxygen for the regime, or in a well executed and significant intelligence gathering to force its way out. But, did he find what he was looking for? Can he guarantee a strategy for an effective external pressure? Will he promote internal opposition unity? Did he understand what the government really wants?

It’d be foolish to believe Corker, McCarry and Juan Pablo de Laiglesia don’t understand who they’re dealing with. These experienced politicians may be making some mistakes—or appearing to do so—but they surely understood what Albán’s murder meant.

After all, only time will tell if the Boston Group is a menace to our future or a tool for democracy.

Indeed, we’re no longer in 2002.