While I am at the beach, my good friend Paul Esqueda sends me this imaginary dialogue in Bogota…Enjoy!
Imaginary Dialogues: reporting from Venezuela
Maria Angela returns to Bogota after a few hectic days, in the Presidential Palace, in Caracas serving as a facilitator of the Dialogue between Maduro’s Government and the Roundtable for Democratic Unity (MUD) that represents the opposition groups in Venezuela. She is about to meet with the President to give her verbal report.
Maria Angela: I am supremely anguished by what I witnessed in Caracas. I was appalled at how unprepared Maduro’s team was for such a high stakes meeting that was aired in national TV for everyone to see. Worst of all, Juan Manuel, it was also witnessed by Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, Brazil’s Foreign Minister; Ricardo Patiño, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister; and Aldo Giordano, Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela. If this is the way Maduro handles matters publicly, I wonder about the depth and breadth of the conversations when they discuss matters informally as a team internally. I am really mortified that this dialogue is going to lead nowhere. Juan Manuel my prestige is on the line here.
President Santos: What about the MUD? Were they equally unprepared?
Maria Angela: Absolutely not, they were very prepared and scripted. They pointed out serious violations of the Venezuelan Constitution. They questioned the trustworthiness of the last two elections. Using data released by Maduro’s own people in the Venezuelan Central Bank, the MUD seriously questioned the precarious state of the economy particularly the notion of heavy dependence on the oil revenue alone. They revealed horrific data about the violent crime rate in Venezuela that Maduro’s Government has encouraged rather than control.
President Santos: Did Maduro’s team respond assertively to any of the allegations made? For example what did they say about the economy?
Maria Angela: The fellow in charge of the economy and finances could not articulate a strong message, he was simply pathetic. It was all vague without data. All they kept saying is that they blame the forty years of the bipartisan governments of AD and COPEI. My God, Chavez and Maduro have been in power for more than 15 years now. That argument is not a good one. Maduro and his team do not want to take responsibility and be accountable. All they want is to stay in power.
President Santos: The impression I get from you is that you have taken sides already and you, as a mediator are supposed to be impartial.
Maria Angeles; I swear on my mother’s tomb that I am being objective. You should see the body language of Maduros’s team. Their gestures and demeanor were of disdain and contempt. They show no respect for the MUD. One of Maduro’s closest collaborator told a union leader and congressmen “I do not like you, I have never liked you, and however, I am willing to work with you.” This is no way to treat the other party in a nationally televised dialogue. On the contrary the MUD people were very respectful and always made statements based on data or provided examples of real life situations to illustrate their points.
President Santos: These type of conversations always have similar beginnings and as the dialogue progresses, things tend to get better. I think you are being impatient. Remember we have gone through this with our own revolutionaries here in Colombia.
Maria Angeles: Do you realize how tough we have been with our own revolutionaries to get them to the negotiating table? How can you be tough with Maduro if he controls all the power centers like Congress, the Supreme Court, the Military, and the National Elections Board? His weak spot is the state of Venezuelan economy, which is about to collapse due to anachronistic policies.
President Santos: Now you are passing judgment on the Venezuelan economy and that is not your job. You need to help Maduro and the MUD to find common ground so that Venezuela does not gradually become a failed state. That would hurt us big time
Maria Angeles: Forgive me Juan Manuel but you seem to be biased too. You are not being objective either because you are vested on Colombia’s best interest.
President Santos: Let us not go there for now. Tell me Maria Angeles how do you see the dialogue moving forward?
Maria Angeles: That is a tough question. I think Maduro is going to have to bring more brains to the table and diminish the ideological piece. He needs to be pragmatic and focused because Venezuela is in a lot of trouble. Maduro’s team needs training in negotiations, diplomacy, a coherent approach to this dialogue, and a clear sense of direction. At some instances I got the impression from Maduro’s people that this would go away just like an unfaithful husband would do when caught red handed. They are doing all the wrong things. Similarly Maduro needs strong evidence that his 21st Century Socialism is working and that the quality of life of all Venezuelan’s is improving not just that of the poor. Otherwise they need to abandon that model quick and cut their losses. The MUD needs to keep the pressure on if they are to get anything out of this dialogue. I think the democratic solution is along the lines of what Lula had suggested: a coalition to ensure a minimum of governability. As it is the Venezuelan economy is paralyzing in slow motion and it may past the point of no return. Frankly, Juan Manuel I fear anarchy and civil war. I sincerely hope it does not happen and I will do everything under my power of influence to avoid that outcome.
This is a hypothetical dialogue. The content is the absolute responsibility of the author. These events never happened in reality.