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Power and Paranoia in Caracas

Venezuelans Are Ready for a Truce—Can the Government and Opposition Deliver?

Nicolás Maduro at a military parade in Caracas, June 2019 Reuters

On April 30, leaders of the Venezuelan opposition, among them National Assembly Chair and self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaidó, gathered before dawn on a three-lane highway in Caracas to proclaim the start of “Operation Freedom,” an uprising to liberate Venezuela. Liberation, however, proved fleeting. A smattering of supposedly mutinous secret policemen had gathered for the uprising, yet within two hours of its proclamation, they had piled into their vehicles and sped off. As one opposition member present at the time later recalled, “It was over before it began.”

Operation Freedom was only the latest in a string of efforts, headed by Guaidó and abetted by the United States and various Latin American governments, to unseat Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whom they decry as a dictator driving his country back to the economic Stone Age. But the failure of the April revolt has prompted supporters of both Maduro and Guaidó to do some soul-searching. The opposition and its advocates in Washington no longer expect that Maduro will be easily pushed from power. Brazil and Colombia no longer believe that a quick government turnover in Venezuela will halt the flow of migrants across their borders. And the Venezuelan government’s conviction that partisans of Chavismo—the mass movement created by Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chávez—would unite around Maduro is bruised, at the very least.

“A moderate position is now a rational one,” a former senior Chavista official told me. Twice in May, Norwegian diplomats invited high-level delegations from both sides to Oslo for discreet talks, which at present remain on hold. Invested foreign powers have dialed back their hostile rhetoric and begun to explore the possibility of a détente between Venezuela’s government and its opposition. In May and June, respectively, top U.S. and Colombian diplomats flew to Russia to discuss Venezuela with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Canada has courted Cuba in search of a peaceful settlement to the dispute. The EU-backed International Contact Group, which supports mediation,

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