Caracas, November 12, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) President Jorge Rodríguez held a closed-door meeting with opposition politician Gerardo Blyde on Friday.
Likewise present were Gustavo Petro, Alberto Fernández and Emmanuel Macron, presidents of Colombia, Argentina and France, respectively. The gathering took place during the V Paris Peace Forum, a yearly summit that brings together world leaders, multilateral organizations, NGOs and other groups to advance “governance solutions” for global issues.
Rodríguez and Blyde led the government and opposition dialogue delegations that engaged in three rounds of negotiations in Mexico in 2021.
“It was a very productive meeting,” the AN president told reporters at the Palais Brongniart in the French capital. “We would like to thank French President Emmanuel Macron for hosting this meeting and for his commitment to the Venezuelan dialogue process.”
Rodríguez highlighted that the Venezuelan people “have the right to live in peace” and demanded the lifting of US-led sanctions against the country. “No one negotiates with a gun to their head,” he stressed.
The Nicolás Maduro government has consistently denounced Washington’s wide-reaching blockade against the Venezuelan economy. Since 2017, with the goal of triggering regime change, the US Treasury Department has levied financial sanctions, an oil embargo, secondary sanctions and a range of other measures targeting sectors such as banking, mining and food imports.
The Biden administration has largely kept its predecessor’s “maximum pressure” campaign in place. However, the Ukraine crisis triggered a global energy crisis that forced the US to revisit its Venezuela policy. The White House has sent two delegations to Caracas and is reportedly weighing an expanded sanctions waiver for oil giant Chevron. Washington has conditioned sanctions relief to unspecified “concrete steps” from the Maduro government.
For his part, Blyde acknowledged that “the world had changed” in reference to US allies such as France no longer ostracizing Venezuela and recognizing the self-proclaimed “interim government.” The former lawmaker said the opposition cannot “remain static” in a moving reality.
“Our focus remains the same: freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and an impartial justice system,” Blyde added.
For their part, the Argentinian, French and Colombian presidents reiterated that dialogue is “the only path” to address the Venezuelan political crisis. They went on to “encourage” both sides to “reach political and humanitarian agreements” in Mexico as well as setting conditions for upcoming presidential elections “with international observation.”
Speaking to reporters, leftist leader Gustavo Petro argued that the blockade on the Venezuelan economy should be removed “to the benefit of millions of people.”
“Let there be a de-escalation of political conflict in Venezuela,” the Colombian president said. He reiterated calls for Venezuela to re-enter the Inter-American Human Rights System and proposed a “coexistence pact for the elections and beyond.”
The two Caribbean neighbors have reestablished ties and reopened the border after years of tensions and Colombian support for regime-change efforts. Maduro and Petro recently met in Caracas and pledged to continue advancing a mutually beneficial bilateral agenda.
Petro’s Argentinian counterpart Alberto Fernández underscored his government’s support for dialogue with “respect for Venezuelan sovereignty.” In a Twitter thread, he went on to back negotiations without “external pressure or conditions” and denounced the impact of sanctions on the Venezuelan population’s human rights.
Caracas and Buenos Aires reestablished diplomatic relations during Fernández’s presidency. The Argentine president recently referred to an International Criminal Court probe against Venezuela as “unfounded and politically driven.”
Macron’s re-engagement with the Caribbean nation represents a significant policy change after having backed the Juan Guaidó-led “interim presidency.” The French president has openly talked about his country’s and European energy concerns as a key priority.
Macron met Maduro during the COP27 climate change summit on Monday in Egypt. The Venezuelan leader called on France to play a “positive role” in Latin America. Ahead of Friday’s gathering, the former investment banker urged negotiations to resume “as soon as possible” to secure “humanitarian agreements and political guarantees.”
The Mexico negotiations, which were mediated by Norway, broke down in October 2021. The Maduro administration withdrew from the process after Venezuelan government envoy Alex Saab was forcefully flown from Cape Verde to the United States to face money laundering charges.
Caracas has reiteratedly objected to what it deems a politically motivated persecution, while Saab’s defense has sought to uphold the envoy’s diplomatic credentials which would shield him from prosecution under the Vienna Convention. In response, US prosecutors have claimed there are inconsistencies in the documents backing up Saab’s alleged diplomatic status.
Florida judge Robert Scola will rule on the matter when the case resumes in December.