Allies of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro and the country’s legitimate president Juan Guaidó have entered secret exploratory talks on the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from Reuters published Tuesday.
Sources who spoke with the agency said that, although the talks have no specific agenda, many senior officials are concerned about the socialist regime’s survival as the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis deepens as a result of the nationwide lockdown.
Despite Venezuela’s allegedly relatively low infection rate, the lockdown has damaged the nation’s already failed economy. Shortages of fuel and running water have also led to people violating quarantine in order to protest.
The economic situation has also been worsened by a fresh set of economic sanctions recently imposed by the United States after the Trump administration designated Maduro and other senior officials narco-traffickers and sponsors of terrorism. Washington is now hoping to capitalize on the coronavirus crisis to achieve its aim of removing Maduro from power and instigating a transition to democracy.
“There are two extremes: Maduro and those who believe that the virus will end Guaido’s leadership, and those on the other side (who) hope this crisis will bring down Maduro,” one unnamed opposition legislator in favor of the talks told the agency. “I think we have to find solutions.”
Although Reuters reporters were unable to verify specific details of the talks such as when and where they are taking place, their existence was reportedly confirmed by seven sources from both sides. Yet Guaidó himself took to Twitter on Tuesday to deny the report, perhaps in an effort to appease his supports who overwhelmingly oppose negotiating with the socialist regime.
“This information is false,” he wrote. “The democratic alternative is united in its cause and there is only one possible agreement to save Venezuela: to form a National Emergency Government, without drug traffickers in Miraflores, that can access international aid that we need.”
#ATENCION esta información es falsa.
La alternativa democrática está unida en causa y sólo existe un acuerdo posible para salvar a Venezuela: conformar Gobierno de Emergencia Nacional, sin narcos en Miraflores, que pueda acceder a la ayuda internacional que necesitamos https://t.co/rov0zsPCbx
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) April 21, 2020
A State Department spokesperson also confirmed that such talks were taking place:
For weeks, Interim President Juan Guaido has been urging the former Maduro regime to take the pandemic more seriously and has been seeking ways to use Venezuelan official funds he can access in the United States to help the struggle against COVID-19. This has led to many conversations by representatives of international organizations with regime officials, and some direct conversations between opposition representatives and regime officials, seeking a practical way forward.
In a television address this weekend, Maduro announced that he was “ready for dialogue, to understand one another and reach a humanitarian agreement to attend to the coronavirus.”
Guaidó, who as leader of the National Assembly became Venezuela’s rightful president in January 2019, has previously attempted talks with the regime after failing to remove Maduro from power – and previously insisted that the “negotiations” were “mediations,” not “talks.”
After several rounds of discussions, it became clear that Maduro had no intention of stepping down or allowing free and fair elections. Following his failure to secure any resolution, as well as corruption allegations against his own entourage, Guaidó has consequently seen his own popularity wane significantly.