They had arranged to see each other on Monday, but Maduro canceled the meeting due to scheduling problems.
The president of Venezuela was experiencing an internal crisis due to the removal of one of the key figures of his government, Tareck El Aissami.
The minister who controlled the state oil company, PDVSA, has been involved in a mega-corruption case with which more than 3,000 million dollars have been lost.
Finally, Maduro and Gustavo Petro met this Thursday in Caracas, in a meeting that had been held secretly and had not been announced.
Presidents have restored diplomatic relations in record time after they were frozen for seven years, but some promises they made at the beginning have fallen by the wayside.
Petro was accompanied by Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva, his chief of staff, Laura Sarabia, and Ambassador Armando Benedetti.
Maduro was next to the first lady Cilia Flores and the Rodríguez brothers, Jorge and Delcy, his two most trusted people.
According to government sources, the leaders spoke about the fight against drug trafficking and collaboration on the border;
the opening of Colombian consulates (there will be approximately 15, counting the one that is already open in Caracas);
and the Amazon summit, one of the issues that obsesses Petro and in which he intends to involve Maduro.
After the meeting, which lasted for two hours, the Colombian president went to the embassy in Caracas, where he picked up a bust of Simón Bolívar that until now had decorated one of the halls of the residence and put it on the presidential plane.
At this time I receive my key, my friend, the president @petrogustavo at the ambassador's residence in Caracas.
And he took Bolívar to Colombia!
— Armando Benedetti (@AABenedetti) March 23, 2023
There have been no issues on the agenda that until recently were key.
Petro, at the beginning of the relationship, considered it essential that the Chavista regime take steps towards a liberal democracy and reintegrate into the Latin American control organizations.
Maduro even stated that he was studying the possibility of returning to the inter-American justice system and that he was going to promote, at the request of the president of Colombia, the negotiation with the opposition in Mexico, moderated by Norway.
A date for the 2024 elections and the verification that they were going to be held under equal conditions for all candidates should come out of that dialogue table.
Months later, there is no indication that Venezuela will agree to return to the system that Hugo Chávez decided to abandon in 2013 and talks with the opposition have run aground.
Maduro and Rodríguez consider that the United States has not fulfilled its promise to unfreeze Venezuelan assets abroad, such as the gold kept in the Bank of England or the accounts of the Central Bank of Venezuela in New York.
It is estimated that they represent between 3,000 and 6,000 million dollars, depending on whether the government or the opposition calculates it.
Washington, in turn, is naturally suspicious of Chavismo, which it accuses of changing everything so that nothing changes.
Presidents Nicolás Maduro and Gustavo Petro at the Aquiles Nazoa Cultural House, located in La Carlota, Miranda State, Venezuela, on March 23, 2023.Andrea Puentes (CHAIR)
The last thing that Chavismo has said is that the dialogue in Mexico will resume if the more than 700 international sanctions that weigh on the country are lifted.
Colombia tries to mediate in this matter.
Benedetti traveled to Washington this week to meet confidentially with members of the Capitol and the White House and address the Venezuelan issue.
Benedetti has forged a good relationship with Chavismo and serves as a bridge in Venezuela for both Petro and the United States.
This has been the fifth time that the presidents have met, the third in Caracas.
Maduro plays an important role in the global peace agreement that Petro is attempting.
Chávez's successor demanded to be present at the negotiating table between the government and the ELN guerrillas.
And the dissidents of Iván Mordisco's FARC have asked the Chavista government to act as guarantor at the next dialogue table that is going to be established.
The request is surprising, since that armed group clashed on the border with the Venezuelan army in 2021, which caused an exodus to Colombia of a large number of citizens who had been caught in the crossfire.
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