Photo: Sofía Jaimes Barreto

What Everybody Knows About The Negotiations

The preconditions required by the regime to start the dialogue are clear proof that they are not willing to give an inch

The regime has been particularly vocal about it. They have three demands: lifting the sanctions, recognizing their de facto rule as legitimate, and handing over some assets which, according to them, belong to the government. The opposing party also has its set of demands, which can all be summed up into one: believable presidential elections. In both cases, the subject of timing is decisive. Maduro’s regime speaks about them as though those three demands had to be met before they even sit down and negotiate when they obviously would have to be the result of the negotiation itself. Demanding as a prerequisite what should be, at best, the end result, leads us to believe what most people have been thinking from the start: the regime has no real interest in negotiating anything, and that all those demands, impossible to satisfy before talks begin, are just a curtain to cover what’s really behind all this; the will to not reach any type of agreement.

The conditions the regime demands can also be summed up into one: lifting the sanctions. That could lead someone to believe that the sanctions actually hurt them, but you can’t really be sure.

It’s been said that, with the help of their official allies and through the illegal market networks, the regime has found a way to build a transaction grid that has helped them evade the sanctions. Armando.Info and El País recently revealed one of those schemes, a quite spectacular one, by the way. In that case, again, the demand to lift all sanctions as a prerequisite for all negotiations, knowing that it should never be a real prerequisite, would be yet another expression of how they really don’t have an interest in those talks leading anywhere.

The goal of the negotiations is to change an established situation, which would serve as a starting point. Each party would have to give something up for the change to actually happen. Let’s see what the initial situation is when it comes to the regime: the regime has been sanctioned, half the world won’t acknowledge it as legitimate, assets that are blocked are also being claimed, and it has control over the territory and weapons. That’s the starting point. It’s quite clear how the board is initially set up. The negative aspects of the regime are three big pieces. They say that the situation must change to their benefit. In exchange for what? The only asset the regime has is power. The only thing they can offer is their own exit. Or more precisely, the real opportunity for Venezuelans to decide if the regime stays or goes.

There’s no maneuver, jugglery, or sleight of hand which will make anyone lose sight of that one thing. You’d have to be an idiot. Releasing some prisoners here and there, naming a couple of authorities on the side, maintaining control of the electoral body, imprisoning some FAES over yonder: none of that fools anyone. For example, those who know who’s who and what’s what in the CNE know that the regime hasn’t lost one iota of control of the electoral process.

Basically, the situation is simple: the majority of the country wants to be given the chance to express its will, the international community wants the same, the regime refuses to bow down to that sentence, in spite of their claim of having eight million people registered in their party and however juicy their prize would be in exchange, at least until the popular consult takes place.

It’s safe to assume that those involved in the negotiations know everything they should know. The Oslo and Barbados experiences must’ve been quite enlightening and everyone should be clear on where the main difficulty lies.

One of the problems encountered to move forward in these negotiations is that all parties already know everything and they know that the other side knows it too. Among the things that should be very clear is who’s meant to take the first step. As important spokespeople have said, negotiations have to result in concrete, quick, meaningful, verifiable, and irreversible initial steps. Seen this way, the regime has to take the first step but it hasn’t moved. There are no signs they intend to do so. There’s no room for deceit or feints. If they don’t take that first step, there’s no moving forward.

The regime knows this too. They have the option of leaving things the way they are or taking the steps, and they know very well which option they prefer. They’ll never be short of ways out. They know that as long as they’re in power, there’s no chance of national recovery and if they leave power an optimistic atmosphere would invade the country and Venezuela would hit the ground running to rebuild and reconcile. What many of us fear is that the regime doesn’t really give a damn.

 

Diego Bautista Urbaneja

Lawyer and political scientist. Founder of the School of Political Studies of the UCV, Individual of number of Venezuela's National Academy of History. Visiting Professor at St. Antony's College, Oxford University. Since 2000, he has been conducting the radio program La Linterna at RCR.