The contradictions in Venezuelan politics appear with greater force, opposition groups are inclined towards participation in elections under any conditions, while the EU increases sanctions and Spain, the main ally, sends its foreign minister to Colombia to the enormous displeasure of the regime. Every man for himself. It is difficult for the regime to expect the lifting of sanctions and therefore the possibility of any future significant improvement. The themes of the week are “The European Union through Spain in Cúcuta”, “Biden and the sanctions” and “The internal political hotbed in Venezuela.”

The European Union through Spain in Cúcuta

Over time, the Venezuelan regime has handled its international situation with particular skill and planning. The investment it made in countries such as Iran, Syria and Turkey has been very useful to it, as have the economic benefits it provided to Russia and China. However, none of these relationships can solve the gigantic financial constraint posed by international sanctions and the impossibility of attracting investment. For this reason, more recently the regime bet heavily on the possibilities that the Spain of Sánchez-Podemos and the arrival of Biden to the Presidency of the United States could present to them.

With regard to Spain, the work of rapprochement already had important antecedents due to relations with former PM José Luis Zapatero, who has influence in the PSOE, the Sao Paulo Forum and the Puebla Group. Now Zapatero’s dealings with Maduro have led the E.U. to a serious diplomatic crisis. Podemos in Spain has also been a defender of the Venezuelan regime and has surely transmitted to it that he could get Spanish and European support without making concessions. From the moment that Josep Borrell assumed the position of High Representative for Foreign Affairs of the European Union, the search for a role for the EU in Venezuela has been noted, with greater emphasis after Trump’s electoral defeat. Borrell’s search has been for an electoral solution with benefits for the Venezuelan regime and included an important limitation on Guaidó‘s recognition.

The reaction was not immediate, but within days Germany and France, the two pillars of the EU, announced their continued support for Guaidó and recently the EU added additional sanctions. Furthermore, Spain, through its Chancellor, was forced to change its position vis-à-vis Venezuela, which included a visit to Cúcuta and financial aid to Colombia for the management of displaced Venezuelans. The reactions surprised and disconcerted the Venezuelan regime and generated chain reactions that included: Laya’s trip to Bogotá makes the situation with Caracas more tense, Maduro puts “the entire relationship” with Spain and Arancha González under review from Cúcuta expressed that expelling diplomats from Venezuela does not help the dialogue. Some did not receive the signal change on time, so we see that the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago asked Biden to lift sanctions against Venezuela.

Biden and the penalties

A lot of noise has been made with the possible lifting of US sanctions in Venezuela. Much had to do with the campaign for the elections in the United States, where some of the Trump supporters  assured everyone that Biden would do away with sanctions. However, it has always been clear that the foreign policy of the US has its elements of continuity. In this particular case, the Biden Administration has the opportunity to use those existing sanctions as an element of pressure and already states that the United States is in no rush to lift the sanctions against the Maduro regime. On the other hand, Biden has announced that the United States is resuming its joint work and collaboration with its allies, where the EU is key and it seems that this is already underway when it is observed that the Biden government condemns the expulsion of an ambassador from the European Union in Caracas and especially when seeing that circumstances also forced Borrell to summon his ambassador to Cuba for asking Biden to end the US blockade. The position of the Joe Biden administration is that he is “in no rush” to lift the sanctions that the United States has on Venezuela, but he would consider easing them if the ruler Nicolás Maduro takes measures that show that he is ready to seriously negotiate with the opposition. Additionally, there was already a first direct contact between the new Secretary of State of the United States and Guaidó.

The internal political hotbed in Venezuela

The positions and divisions within the opposition are increasingly clear and despite the fact that Venezuela is within the whirlwind of global geopolitics, many are acting in ignorance of this and responding to feelings of frustration and despair. Of course, the almost automatic response of part of the opposition to any situation is to participate in any election, and there are political consultants who claim that the opposition will win 20 state governments and that these state governments have more power than the NA!!!  Among the elements one present one can observe the following:

  • Most political parties are working to participate in elections under any conditions.
  • The conflict between the opposition living in the country and those in exiles is becoming more intense.
  • The divisions of political positions now exist also within Fedecamaras. Many if the solid businessmen look for breathing room trying to survive in a smaller market, but there are also those opportunistic trying to connect with the regime. The reality is that is very difficult to penetrate that closed circle, where betrayals pay a heavy price. Of course, there is also much less to go around.
  • One area where there is a desire to promote the electoral possibility is with the candidates for the CNE (the national electoral authority). Apparently, several opponents and even former leaders of Fedecámaras have applied for registration. We will see how much space the regime grants them.

In any case, the multiple groups that make up the regime have diverse interests and their divisions make any negotiated solution difficult. Those who deviate may end up in exile (Rafael Ramírez), in jail (Diego Salazar), disappeared (Carlos Lanz) or isolated like the PCV.