Colombia appears to have taken the backseat after a meeting in Canada of the regional Lima Group that seeks the restoration of democracy in neighboring country Venezuela.
Following a meeting in Canada, the Latin American countries and Canada, Colombia’s foreign ministry supported the multinational claim that only “fair, free and credible presidential elections” could “end the tragedy” in Venezuela.
Implicitly, the Lima Group maintained their demands Maduro takes steps towards democratization.
The Group considered that Venezuelan democracy will only be restored through free, fair and credible presidential elections, and this process requires an Independent National Electoral Council, an impartial Supreme Court, international observation, freedom of the press and guarantees of political participation for all Venezuelans.
The end of Guaido?
What did seem to have changed is the international consensus about opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Neither the multinational organization, which doesn’t include the United States, nor Colombia formally mentioned the chairman of Venezuela’s National Assembly.
Guaido who was long considered “the legitimate president of Venezuela” and the designated person to lead Venezuela’s transition to democracy by all, but those days may be over.
Both inside Venezuela and abroad, Guaido appears to have fallen out of favor.
Instead, “the countries of the Lima Group are going to seek outreach with countries that are interested in the restoration of democracy in Venezuela,” according to the regional foreign ministers.
Colombia’s Foreign Minister Claudia Blum confirmed “the need for the international community to increase pressure for free presidential elections in the neighboring country.
Until Thursday, Colombian President Ivan Duque and his US counterpart Donald Trump have consistently and fiercely supported Guaido and attacked Maduro.
Hawkish approach has not led to anything
A year after the chairman of Venezuela’s National Assembly declared himself president, Guaido has achieved nothing but increase tensions with Colombia and weaken Duque’s authority at home.
Talks between the two political rivals have also led to nothing while the opposition leader is at increased risk of going to prison over corruption scandals exploited by Maduro.
Meanwhile, regional dynamics have changed. Major anti-government protests in Chile and Colombia require attention. Argentina’s new government has taken a passive stance while at the same time, Bolivia’s new government has stopped supporting Maduro and joined the Lima Group.
Changing the big guys’ approach
The Lima Group’s biggest challenge would be to get the US on one hand, and China and Russia on the other, to end their relatively conflictive attitudes, at least in Venezuela.
Changing the attitude of Trump, who is facing elections this year, and that of Putin, who has gained control in the region by disrupting US efforts, will require sensitive diplomacy allowing both leaders to claim victory.
Getting them on board is urgent though, as “human suffering in Venezuela has reached an intolerable level” and is destabilizing Colombia, the United States’ staunchest ally in the region.
Convincing the European Union would be a lot easier; their policy has largely been aligned with that of Canada and the Latin American governments.
Finding a solution for Venezuela’s escalating crisis will be difficult in any case, and may not just need diplomatic efforts, but a serious financial injection to restart the economy.