When Gustavo Petro got off the plane on his first trip to Caracas on December 1, the brothers Jorge and Delcy Rodriguez, who make up the closest circle of Nicolas Maduro, were waiting for him at the foot of the runway. Next to them was a third person in a very discreet attitude that very few people recognized. It was Luis Salas, a mutual friend of Maduro and Petro. The man who listened with a serious face to the melody of the music band that received the Colombian president was the one who mediated between him and Maduro when the Colombian was still campaigning, a secret and hidden contact that almost no one knew about. That was the beginning of relations that in just a few months have changed the geopolitical landscape of the region.
The Chavista government and the opposition are now sitting down again at the negotiating table in Mexico and Maduro is considering re-entering the inter-American human rights system, two steps that until recently seemed very difficult. None of this would exist without the mediation of Colombia, or at least events would not have precipitated in this way. Salas, a businessman about whom there is hardly any information on Google, was the glue. After that everything has turned out. It is no coincidence that it was Petro who made the announcement from Mexico, which the whole world was waiting for.
Until recently, during the Ivan Duque Administration, a painting of Nicolas Maduro as Public Enemy Number One hung in Colombian military barracks. Maduro and Duque had completely broken relations. The president of that time enthusiastically supported the so-called interim government of Juan Guaido. The arrival of Petro meant a radical turn. Diplomatic relations have been reestablished and the opening of the border has been announced. Suddenly, the two countries are connected again. Petro has proposed to be a key mediator when it comes to unlocking the political situation in Venezuela. And for now he is getting it.
In Paris, where Petro, Emmanuel Macron and Alberto Fernandez met with Jorge Rodriguez and an opponent, the last step was taken. There, in one of the rooms of the Palacio de la Bolsa, the parties agreed to return to negotiations and to set a start date: November 26 and 27. That is, within three days. The agreement for Petro to make such an important announcement arose naturally. The tweet in which he did so has positioned him as a reference in the negotiation of Mexico, where until now he had no role.
Jorge Rodriguez said in Paris that the Chavista government was prepared to talk with the opponents and seek a specific date for the 2024 presidential elections, where international verification is expected to endorse the elections. But, yes, Rodriguez insisted that some of the more than 700 sanctions that weigh on the country should be lifted (“We insist that there cannot be a dialogue with a revolver to the head and Venezuela has 762 revolvers, which are the illegal sanctions , which are neither more nor less than torture against the social and economic body of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”, said the president of the National Assembly). The main sanctioner is the United States, which for months has been issuing favorable signals towards Caracas. In fact, in the coming days it will be announced that Chevron will receive new licenses to export oil in Venezuela, which means a great injection of money for the Venezuelan state coffers.
Washington has been attentive all this time to the steps of Venezuela. He had faith that Colombia would deploy a new diplomacy and convince Chavismo to find a negotiated solution. Petro, who in parallel has a team of negotiators talking in Caracas with the ELN in search of peace, seemed to them the perfect candidate to make this approach. Salas, a stranger to the general public, acted as a link and made the pieces fit together. Venezuela, which seemed plunged into a political torpor for some time, has suddenly come back to life.
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