Colombia is seeking to mediate dialogue between Venezuela’s government and opposition as their political stand-off becomes increasingly tense, according to President Juan Manuel Santos.
Venezuela, Colombia’s neighbor to the east, is on the brink of collapse.
An energy crisis has limited civil servants to a two-day week to save electricity, inflation is expected to hit 500% and President Nicolas Maduro has deployed the army to control an increasingly unruly populace and fierce political opposition.
The drop in global oil prices hit the Venezuelan economy especially hard, and the left-wing government can no longer guarantee food, basic good and energy to its citizens.
Unemployment has hit 17% and people are dying amid shortages and violent repression.
Santos has been criticized for his silence regarding the critical situation in Venezuela, particularly as possibly violations of human rights have started to come to light.
However, on Monday Santos announced that Colombia has been trying to mediate dialogue between Venezuela’s government and opposition — though so far without any success.
“I have been searching for some type of dialogue so that the Venezuelans can find solutions to their problems because anything that happens in Venezuela has repercussions in Colombia”
President Juan Manuel Santos
He assured the audience that his government had “in private” demanded respect for human rights and democracy.
Meanwhile, this weekend the Venezuelan military began practicing defensive operations to confront an alleged foreign invasion or coup.
The opposition wants a referendum which they believe would oust Maduro from power. Maduro, who knows they are probably right, has denounced this as a coup attempt.
In recent days, Maduro has sounded like a paranoid strongman, telling his country they must “prepare themselves for an invasion… Venezuela does not mess with anyone but the guns are where they should be, so that nobody messes with Venezuela.”
The border between Colombia and Venezuela remains closed by order of Maduro. Nonetheless, Santos will be hoping that his message gets through before things explode in the neighboring country.