Venezuela: Opposition Personality Holds Talks with Turkey’s Erdogan Behind Juan Guaidó’s Back

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2014 file photo, opposition leader Henrique Capriles points during an interview at his office in Caracas, Venezuela. Capriles is routinely denounced, with little direct evidence, as a sellout who has cut secret deals to coexist with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. He has recently hinted …
AP Photo/Fernando Llano, File

Venezuelan opposition personality Henrique Capriles admitted publicly to holding talks with the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday.

Capriles, who is the former governor of Miranda as well as a prominent leader in the center-left Justice First party, said that although there were no formal negotiations between himself and the Venezuelan opposition with Erdogan, it remains “appropriate to speak with everyone who brings us to a credible solution.”

Capriles ran two failed presidential campaigns in recent memory, first against late dictator Hugo Chávez and later against current dictator Nicolás Maduro. He does not currently hold any elected office and does not operate in the administration of President Juan Guaidó in any official capacity.

No reports explained how he presented himself to Erdogan’s government or what Turkish officials discussed with him, and the talks were held without the approval of Guaidó himself.

“We are informing Venezuelans and the international community of our absolute lack of knowledge about talks held between the Erdogan regime and Henrique Capriles,” he said in a communiqué. “These actions were carried out without the knowledge or authorization of the interim government, the National Assembly, our international allies, or the unitary agreement reached and announced by 27 political organizations that unite our democratic forces.”

Amid criticism of the move, given Erdogan’s own litany of human rights abuses and steadfast support for the Maduro regime, Capriles took to Twitter to insist that he would talk to any government or regime to help secure a “solution” for Venezuela’s political, economic, and humanitarian crisis.

“Talking to a member of the international community is normal when you believe in politics and democracy,” Capriles wrote. “Let’s be clear: with the Chinese, with the Russians, with the Europeans, we will speak with everyone that is necessary to get the Venezuelans out of this crisis.”

Capriles added to his statement a photo of President Donald Trump meeting with Erdogan. Turkey and the United States are NATO allies, and both men are heads of state, so such meetings are expected and necessary. Capriles did not clarify how such a meeting compared to his decision to reach out as a private citizen to Turkey.

The 48-year-old went on to claim credit for this week’s move by the regime to pardon more than 100 political prisoners, despite widespread suggestions that it was a political stunt intended to create a sense of legitimacy around parliamentary elections Maduro has ordered to take place in December.

“Today, through my ‘personal efforts,’ we are satisfied with the release of 110 political prisoners,” he boasted. “My only interest is to defend Venezuelans and achieve the freedom of Venezuela. We are not going to resign ourselves, just as no Venezuelan will until we see the change in the country!”

Legitimizing the upcoming elections may also be an aim of Capriles’s, who met with Guaidó on Monday to discuss the possibility of forming an electoral pact. According to Guaidó, forming such a pact would help “avoid parliamentary fraud” and provide a “mechanism” for “massive citizen participation.”

Other opposition leaders poured cold water over the idea, citing the fact that every national election over the past decade has been heavily rigged in favor of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Among the critics is the leader of Vente Venezuela, María Corina Machado, the only right-of-center figure in Venezuelan mainstream politics.

In a scathing letter sent to Guaidó following their meeting over the weekend, Machado accused him of failing in his duty to do everything possible to remove Maduro from power and instigate a transition to democracy following his inauguration as president last January. This is a position shared by the majority of the Venezuelan public, as well as President Donald Trump, who has reportedly lost confidence in Guaidó’s leadership.

“Juan, there are opportunities that have been wasted. The country gave you a task that you have been unable to accomplish,” she wrote. “Now your proposal is to carry out another consultation with the public … What is the aim of this consultation? What are the consequences? The country was consulted 16th of July 2017, there you have your incomplete mandate. What we need to do is complete it.”

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