The presidents of Colombia, Brazil, France and Argentina, as well as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, took advantage of the EU-CELAC summit on July 17 in Brussels to bring together Delcy Rodríguez, Vice President of Venezuela, and Gerardo Blyde , chief negotiator of the opposition, in a new dialogue attempt after the interruptions to the process in Mexico and the emergence of other different initiatives although with common points such as the Paris Peace Forum in November 2022, the Summit in Bogotá in April 2023, and the Brasilia Summit in May 2023.
The two parties had not formally met since the last encounter in Mexico in November 2022. That meeting in Mexico took place just a few days from Paris. Although the current meeting could reveal some need for a political meeting, what is clear is that the international community continues to pay attention to the Venezuelan situation and it did so by focusing the discussion on what are currently the main interests of each side, namely free elections and unilateral coercive measures. Apart from the few tangible results, the excluded topics, the opacity of the process and other similar criticisms, it is worth celebrating that political contact has been resumed. More important is that a joint declaration has been issued with a tenor very similar to that of the Bogotá summit and that comes to mark what would be the order of priorities of the actors who are committed to a prompt and negotiated resolution of the conflict in Venezuela.
The declaration invited in the first place “to resume dialogue and negotiation within the framework of the process in Mexico to agree, among other points on the agenda, the conditions of the next elections.” After talking about elections, the text adopts as its next point that “this process must be accompanied by the lifting of sanctions of all kinds, with a view to their total lifting.” The document from the Summit in Bogotá adopted a similar tone focused on three points, the first of which referred to the “need to establish an electoral schedule that allows free, transparent elections and with full guarantees for all Venezuelan actors,” taking as a reference – to which it explicitly alludes – the recommendations of the 2021 EU Election Observation Mission.
The president of Brazil himself added to this order of priorities by pointing out at a press conference that “if they agree with the rules and the date of the elections, I think we have the moral authority to request an end to the sanctions”. In this regard, for the international community conditions for free elections must be given and on that fundamental basis the issue of sanctions could be reviewed. The latter is inevitably conditioned to the former. It is no longer just Europe, the United States and some countries in the Americas, more and more countries, including the democratic left in the region, are drawing a roadmap starting with clear and sufficient guarantees for the elections and continues with the sanctions. In addition, if the priority is the elections, this must be connected with another item on the agenda: releasing of political prisoners.
The accompanying countries also welcomed the social agreement signed by the parties on November 26, 2022 and “called for its effective implementation as soon as possible, for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.” Therefore, this space must serve at the same time to speed up the efforts that allow the immediate access of the social fund to the country and that can and must go hand in hand with the conditions for free elections.
AlertaVenezuela calls on the international community to continue promoting more meetings between the parties and joint political initiatives that encourage them to resume the negotiation process with Mexico as soon as possible focusing on an clearer road map. Paris, Bogotá, Brasilia and now Brussels are marching together towards Mexico. Facing the elections in a year or so, an advocacy strategy must be built to make the opportunity for change that opens up upon resuming dialogue a reality.