Colombian President Gustavo Petro, after giving a speech at the Ibero-American summit that was held in Santo Domingo last week. FEDERICO PARRA (AFP)
Gustavo Petro has convened an international meeting of foreign ministers and diplomats from the United States and European and Latin American countries to try to find a solution to the Venezuelan political crisis.
The meeting will be held in Bogotá, and the presence of Nicolás Maduro is not ruled out, with whom Petro agreed to the meeting on his last visit to Caracas, a week ago.
Maduro was not very receptive to the idea at first, according to diplomatic sources, but he ended up agreeing.
Maduro's presence, however, would endanger that of Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, who has unofficially confirmed his presence.
Washington, of course, has given the go-ahead for the meeting, so with it Colombia does not break its promise not to surprise its traditional ally.
From that meeting, the same sources explain, a work team must emerge to develop a viable technical and political route for easing and lifting sanctions on Venezuela.
In turn, the Chavista government must release prisoners and eliminate the disqualifications imposed on opposition politicians.
Only with that would the dialogue between the opposition and the Government, stalled for months, be resumed.
The main thing: find a specific date to hold the 2024 presidential elections.
Petro will also seek a dialogue with the opposition, as reported by the Colombian presidency.
It is expected that he will meet with the Unitary Platform, which brings together the four largest opposition parties and some minority ones.
The president was obliged to make a gesture with the anti-Chavistas, whose most radical sectors have viewed the rapprochement between Petro and Maduro with suspicion.
They took it for granted that the Colombian was not going to demand anything after diplomatic relations have been restored.
The US and Norway also consider that without the Unitary Platform there is no point in moving forward either.
"We do not want to start a new dialogue process, but rather that the parties return to Mexico," explains a source from Colombian diplomacy.
The Bogotá meeting was to be held on April 5 and 6, but it has finally been postponed until after Easter.
Colombia hopes from this meeting that a new approach will be produced when it comes to approaching Venezuela, different from the current one, which has not yielded results.
This new approach, explain those involved, must have a regional perspective.
That is where Petro wants to play a fundamental role.
His intention, repeats his entourage, is "to accompany the Venezuelan government and the opposition in solving the crisis."
“A way to contribute in a construction way to the political crisis”, they emphasize.
Laura Sarabia, Petro's chief of staff, has been in the United States these days finalizing all the details about the meeting.
Petro had proposed a forum with the opposition, also in Bogotá.
Within the Colombian government there are conflicting opinions on the matter.
Some believe that it would be too tight the rope with Maduro in the event that the official opposition, which has not broken relations with Chavismo, were not included, and others consider it essential to establish a dialogue with the true opponents, who in no case They would agree to sit next to what they consider
, politicians in the shadow of the Maduro government.
I will convene an international conference in Colombia with the objective of building the road map that allows effective political dialogue between society and the Venezuelan government.
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) March 28, 2023
This newspaper announced yesterday that Maduro will only return to the table in Mexico if the assets abroad are released and he receives licenses to sell oil.
The United States, for its part, insists that Chavismo gestures are necessary, such as freeing political prisoners and disqualifying opponents.
The meeting called by Petro, whose existence he has revealed through Twitter, his favorite social network, has to serve to bring together these two positions that, on paper, right now seem difficult to fit.
Both parties must cede in their claims.
Colombia trusts all its international credibility to the resolution of the Venezuelan crisis.
Armando Benedetti, the ambassador, has established strong relations with Chavismo and has visited Washington to carry confidential messages back and forth.
Petro has also entrusted this task to Luis Gilberto Murillo, the ambassador to the United States, who has acted with great secrecy and caution.
Foreign Minister Leyva plays a relevant role, but he has focused above all on Caracas helping Colombia in the simultaneous peace processes that are advancing under the total peace policy.
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