Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Venezuela Post # 10: The Negotiations Path

John Bolton's Loss of Influence





The Washington Post reported on May 8,

"President Trump is questioning his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela following the failure of a U.S.-backed effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro, complaining he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman with a young opposition figure, according to administration officials and White House advisers.

The president’s dissatisfaction has crystallized around national security adviser John Bolton and what Trump has groused is an interventionist stance at odds with his view that the United States should stay out of foreign quagmires.

Trump has said in recent days that Bolton wants to get him 'into a war' — a comment that he has made in jest in the past but that now betrays his more serious concerns, one senior administration official said."


The Post had written one week earlier,

"As he has pushed for a more aggressive policy, Bolton has angered some within and outside the White House. ... his staff clashed with Gen. Paul Selva, Dunford’s vice chairman, during a meeting to address the ongoing Venezuelan crisis, according to several officials with knowledge of the exchange.


The soft-spoken Air Force general was giving an update last week on the Pentagon’s view and making the case against a risky escalation by the United States when Bolton aides, including Mauricio Claver-Carone, Western Hemisphere director at the National Security Council, repeatedly interrupted and asked for military options, according to the officials.
Selva, irritated at the interruptions and confrontational style rather than the substance of any disagreement, slammed his hand down on the table, his ring hitting the wood with a sharp crack. Bolton deputy Charles Kupperman, who was chairing the meeting, adjourned the session earlier than planned, said the officials, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
A senior administration official said Bolton’s staff was dissatisfied with Selva, who they felt had not presented sufficient military options for Venezuela as expected. Selva, according to people familiar with the interaction, believed the confrontational style of Bolton’s staff was out of line.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/venezuelas-opposition-put-together-a-serious-plan-for-now-it-appears-to-have-failed/2019/05/01/7df68fe0-6c19-11e9-be3a-33217240a539_story.html

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My on line post to NY Times story on Guaido's failure and his new position on negotiations


The Times needs to reflect on its overwhelmingly one sided coverage and editorial opinion of the Venezuela crisis, similar in many ways to the run up to the US invasion of Iraq. John Bolton's attempt to recussitate the Monroe Doctrine, after its burial by Secretary of State Kerry at the OAS, is symptomatic of the fundamental flaw of creating an alternative government to bring about regime change. The Times runs as boilerplate the State Department talking point that "more than 50 countries" recognize Guido, never noting the obvious that some 140 representing most of the world's population don't--including India, Turkey, Italy and Ireland. Finally after the failure of Guaido's last appeal for military disloyalty and invevitable civil war and US troops, the Times is beginning to provide some balance. I suggest you give more coverage to why a sector of the population is still Chavista despite Maduro's failures and how nationalism leads the military to reject a US imposed interim government with an illegimate leader. Have your editors read the International Crisis Group's analysis of the option for a negotiated solution? Our perspective in greater depth with a link to ICG is here https://conta.cc/2HVAWX9 How could the Times have played such a positive role in supporting President Obama's opening with Cuba and then followed Bolton, Claver-Carone and Abrams down a rabbit role aimed ultimately at Havana?

John McAuliff

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/world/americas/venezuela-juan-guaido-nicolas-maduro.html


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International Crisis Group


Introduction: "What’s new? Venezuela’s political and economic crisis has split Latin America, debilitated its regional organisations and spurred a mass exodus that is overwhelming under-resourced public services in Colombia and elsewhere. The failed 30 April uprising in Caracas and the humanitarian effects of U.S. sanctions underline the urgency of a negotiated settlement..

Why does it matter? Deadlock in Caracas, deep political polarisation within and among Latin American states, and growing tensions among powers such as the U.S., Russia and China raise the real danger of worsening unrest in Venezuela, cross-border instability and military escalation.

What should be done? Latin American states close to Venezuela’s two sparring camps should join forces with the EU’s International Contact Group and others to push for a negotiated transition, enabling pragmatic Venezuelans to transcend the impasse, form a cross-party government and pave the way to fresh elections."



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Trump Undercuts Bolton on North Korea and Iran 

New York Times,  May 28, 2019

in recent days, the disconnect between Mr. Trump and his national security adviser has spilled over into public, sowing confusion around the world about America’s foreign policy, particularly on matters of war and peace....

In private, Mr. Trump has made fun of his adviser’s militant reputation, suggesting that he was the one restraining Mr. Bolton rather than the other way around. “If it was up to John, we’d be in four wars now,” one senior official has recalled the president saying....

One person close to Mr. Trump said the situation resembled the moment when the president turned on Rex W. Tillerson, his first secretary of state, but still took another six months or more to push him out. Others expressed doubt that Mr. Trump would get rid of Mr. Bolton before next year’s re-election campaign....

Mr. Trump has also grown dissatisfied with the results of another of Mr. Bolton’s top priorities: the campaign to push out President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. While Mr. Bolton has helped rally international condemnation of Mr. Maduro, the domestic opposition inside Venezuela has failed to turn the military against him and oust the president....

At the same time, his allies said he [Bolton] had been misunderstood, cast as favoring military action in Venezuela, for instance, when in fact they say he does not.



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Negotiations 

Norway is playing an important role in fostering dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition that is pretending to be a government.  

An interesting perspective comes from the Norwegian left, an interview by Real News Network with Eirik Vold, a Foreign Policy Adviser for Norway’s Red Party.

GREG WILPERT So, an article that was published in The Miami Herald the other day, quoted an unnamed Norwegian official who was involved in the facilitation efforts. According to the article, the official said, “The opposition’s negotiation mandate is very narrow— Maduro resigns, or nothing. If they only want to negotiate the conditions of Maduro’s surrender, then of course there won’t be an agreement. Their position has to be more realistic.” Now, indeed such a beginning position does not seem to bode well. How do you see the chances for success, based on your knowledge of both Venezuela and Norway’s experience with peace negotiations? 
EIRIK VOLD Well, definitely it’s a difficult task to reconcile those positions. Of course, in the initial phase of a peace negotiation process like this, dialogue like this, they are definitely positions that might seem irreconcilable, but then they will slowly move closer and closer to each other, and in the end, they’ll end up close enough for a deal to be made. It’s definitely a difficult task because Guaido’s whole project, his whole leadership, is based on his promise of a quick fix— Maduro is going to be toppled, and then we’ll have democracy, and it’s going to happen very soon, and that’s what his support is based upon, so the time is essential for him. Now for the rest of the opposition,
I think these claims might not be seen as ideal either. I think what the Norwegian negotiators see is that there is a potential for conciliation in the sense that the government can give something. For example, the vote of the majority who voted for the opposition parties for the elections for the National Assembly, that vote must be respected in the sense that the National Assembly’s authority will be restored, more opposition politicians who are jailed must be freed and be allowed to participate in the elections.
Whereas, the government would say that the sanctions are a crucial factor— they would say that there is no way that we can have truly democratic elections— no election would be democratic when sanctions are being imposed, destroying the livelihood of the majority, of millions of Venezuelans every day. And so, I think in between here, there is a possibility for a deal, but it seems pretty far away and it’s pretty telling that Norway sends this message to the opposition through The Miami Herald. I mean, I think I know a little bit about how the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs does the job, and they are not amateurs. They— this leak is not an accident. It’s probably a very controlled—It’s a message that’s being sent maybe not just to the opposition hardliners, but also to the US. I mean, the US is who gives the opposition leverage through sanctions. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a message directed both to Washington and Miami and to the hardliners in Caracas from the Norwegian government.

Additional detail about Norway's role from Associated Press 


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Brazil

A key ally in the US strategy for regime change in Venezuela has been the conservative government of Brazil.  However, John Bolton, et. al. have badly miscalculated that Brasilia's agenda is the same as Washington's and that it would support military intervention.  From a May 31 Reuters story

Brazil withdraws diplomatic invite to Venezuelan opposition envoy
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s government withdrew an invitation to an official ceremony sent to the envoy for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, she said on Friday, playing down the idea that it showed scepticism from President Jair Bolsonaro’s ex-military advisers.
 The former generals making up nearly a third of Bolsonaro’s cabinet have been wary of provoking Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, warning against moves that could tip an economic and political crisis into violence across Brazil’s northern border....
Brazilian newspapers Folha de S.Paulo and O Globo reported that Bolsonaro’s government had cancelled her invitation because ex-military aides want to pursue dialogue with Maduro, who also has an official representative in Brasilia....
Venezuela recently reopened its border crossing to Brazil after a nearly three-month closure, and Bolsonaro’s aides are working to restore more regular power supply for the Brazilian state of Roraima, which depends on the Venezuelan grid. 
Bolsonaro, like many heads of state in the region, has been sharply critical of the Maduro government, and advisers to U.S. President Donald Trump have pressed him to take a harder line.
Mr. Bolsonaro’s top security adviser, retired General Augusto Heleno, told Reuters two weeks ago that Venezuela’s armed forces will decide Mr. Maduro’s future and could depose him to lead a transition to democratic elections. 
“Recognition of Guaido’s envoy was never agreed to by the military, who vetoed the idea of a U.S. base in Brazil from day one,” said Brazilian diplomat Paulo Roberto de Almeida.
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-brazil-snubs-venezuelan-opposition-envoy-as-doubts-rise-on-juan-guaido/

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Exclusive: In secret recording, Pompeo opens up about Venezuelan opposition, says keeping it united ‘has proven devilishly difficult’

By John Hudson
June 5 at 3:21 PM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a candid assessment of Venezuela’s opposition during a closed-door meeting in New York last week, saying that the opponents of President Nicolás Maduro are highly fractious and that U.S. efforts to keep them together have been more difficult than is publicly known.

“Our conundrum, which is to keep the opposition united, has proven devilishly difficult,” Pompeo said in an audio recording obtained by The Washington Post. “The moment Maduro leaves, everybody’s going to raise their hands and [say], ‘Take me, I’m the next president of Venezuela.’ It would be forty-plus people who believe they’re the rightful heir to Maduro.”

The remarks provide a rare window into the challenges the Trump administration faces as the momentum to oust Maduro stalls and some of the countries that initially backed the opposition explore alternative diplomatic paths to resolve the crisis.

Pompeo said he was confident Maduro would eventually be forced out, but “I couldn’t tell you the timing.”

He said the difficulty of uniting the opposition has not only played out in “public for these last months, but since the day I became CIA director, this was something that was at the center of what President Trump was trying to do.”

 “We were trying to support various religious . . . institutions to get the opposition to come together,” he said.

He expressed regret that during a failed April 30 bid to incite a military uprising, competing interests among Maduro’s enemies and rivals prevented the socialist dictator’s swift exit....

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/exclusive-pompeo-opens-up-about-venezuelas-opposition-says-keeping-it-united-has-proven-devilishly-difficult/2019/06/05/85385a33-8eae-4ba5-a9ac-6b7b8c3d5762_story.html

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