The Time For Diplomacy

Photo: @jguaido

After holding the meeting in Bogota, members of the Lima Group issued a statement condemning the violence with which the regime blocked the entry of humanitarian aid, as well as the people wounded and killed at the borders with Colombia and Brazil. In addition to all the formalities and usually decorate these texts, such as complaints about our circumstances, requests to the International Criminal Court, to the UN Human Rights Council, to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and to other nations to recognize the legitimacy of caretaker President Juan Guaidó, the most important was that they restated their conviction that the transition to democracy must be peaceful, within the Constitution and international law, supported by political and diplomatic means, and without use of force. Many recoiled at the possibility of a military intervention, which is a message in itself. Meanwhile, Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo denounced “serious threats against Juan Guaidó’s family,” so he made Nicolás responsible for any action against him and his relatives: “If it happens, it would open the door for the Lima Group to apply all diplomatic and political means.”

Detained and robbed in Miraflores

Mexican journalist Jorge Ramos and his team, from Univision, were arbitrarily detained in Miraflores Palace, but they were also robbed of their cameras, cell phones and personal belongings, and Ramos only managed to get 17 minutes of interview, before Nicolás got angry because he showed him a video of some people eating directly from the garbage.

Regime propaganda minister Jorge Rodríguez made the worst damage control in history, while the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) kept reporting about the team’s “release” from Miraflores, the escort operation executed by the political police (SEBIN) and the takeover of the facilities of the hotel where the team is staying.

In his rendition to Patricia Janiot, Ramos said that the siblings Jorge and Delcy Rodríguez insulted the Univision team: “You’re going to swallow those words like a Coca-Cola,” they told him. Mexico sent a note of protest and even the impartial Jon Lee Anderson panicked. This is the level of defenselessness that we’ve suffered with chavismo for years. These are the limits of freedom of expression and press with Nicolás: if I don’t like it, I abuse your rights and also harass you. After midnight, the SNTP confirmed that the Univision team will be deported first thing in the morning.

It’s neither war nor peace

“We’re gathered here to show that there’s a great feeling of multilateralism in the region when it’s about defending democratic principles, ideas and values,” said Colombian President Iván Duque to open the Lima Group session, adding that “the situation Venezuela’s experiencing isn’t a dilemma between war and peace. The true dilemma in Venezuela is the continuation of a dictatorship or the return to democracy.”

Duque urged the OAS to adopt sanctions against Nicolás’s regime, and called on the Inter American Development Bank to provide “help to articulate a plan for Venezuela’s economic recovery once dictatorship ends.” Juan Guaidó said that “there’s no dilemma between war and peace” because peace must prevail: “It’s not a matter of democracy or dictatorship. There’s no dilemma between war and peace, the protection of citizens must prevail,” he said, adding that being permissive with Nicolás’s usurpation would be a threat for democracy in all America: “The pressure to rebuild democracy starts with a region willing to use its strength to recover fundamental values (…) peace must prevail,” said Guaidó.

Offers and sanctions

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence asked Venezuelan soldiers yesterday to take up the banner of democracy and support Juan Guaidó: “President Guaidó does not seek retribution against you, but to be clear, neither does the United States of America. To all of those in the Venezuelan Armed Forces today, we say: If you take up the banner of democracy, President Guaidó’s government and the United States government will welcome your support and grant relief from the sanctions that have been placed.” Before the group he proposed three measures: immediately freeze PDVSA’s assets in the region’s countries; transfer Venezuelan assets to the government of caretaker President Juan Guaidó; and restrict the issuance of visas for Nicolás’s inner circle. Pence said that “all options are on the table” in the quest to find a solution to the Venezuelan crisis. Pence announced that the U.S. will provide $56 million to support the actions of their allies in the region to assist Venezuelans displaced by the crisis. Additionally, new sanctions were imposed against four regime governors implicated “involved in corruption and blocking the delivery of critical humanitarian aid”: Apure governor Ramón Carrizales; Vargas’s Jorge García Carneiro; Carabobo’s Rafael Lacava and Zulia’s Omar Prieto.

Other movements on the board

South Korea recognized Juan Guaidó yesterday as caretaker President of Venezuela. While in the UN Human Rights Council several nations like Denmark, Georgia and the Czech Republic advocated for justice in Venezuela and rested their support for Juan Guaidó, China criticized the “politicization” of the delivery of humanitarian aid and asked for dialogue and political solutions. Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada urged the end of violence and categorically rejected a military intervention, supporting “a political, peaceful and institutional solution.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission insisted that a military intervention must be avoided, said spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic, who also explained that the technical mission of the Contact Group that visited Caracas was able to “speak with all relevant actors (…) They spoke of the necessary phases for the solution of the crisis, for elections and humanitarian assistance.” On February 28th, there will be a meeting of high officials in Brussels to prepare the next meeting of the Contact Group at a ministerial level; Kocijancic said that the regime “has lost the necessary legitimacy” and that “elections [must be held] according to international standards.” Other governments such as Germany, Ecuador and Portugal, called for an end to the blockade so that humanitarian aid can enter the country, and cynics such as Uruguayan Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa dare talk about “the serious risk of civilian and military clashes,” without denouncing chavismo’s criminal use of force.

Colombian Immigration reported last night that over 270 members of Venezuelan security forces fled to Colombia: 243 through Northern Santander, 23 through Arauca and eight through La Guajira. The group includes PNB, GNB, FAES, Army and Navy. There are still no statements from the Venezuelan military high command in this regard. The meeting of the UN Security Council requested by the U.S. will be held today. We go on.

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