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In January 2019, the European Union offered Nicolás Maduro an ultimatum to resign. This Monday (06/29/2020), he has given the block’s ambassador to Venezuela a period of seventy-two hours to leave the country. In short: the Caracas regime took a year and a half to turn the pulse of powers, leaving behind the position of weakness in which his departure seemed imminent. On the contrary, he now believes himself strong enough to allow himself to provoke a diplomatic clash with Brussels.
Maduro’s decision reveals a certain robustness of his administration, and reveals a fundamental contradiction that for eighteen months has coexisted in European international policy towards Venezuela: judging a government as illegitimate and, nevertheless, responding to through official mechanisms; and even more: being obliged, as now, to abide by their decisions, thereby de facto acknowledging their authority.
« We condemn and reject the expulsion of our ambassador in Caracas. We will take the usual necessary measures of reciprocity, » were the first words of Josep Borrell, the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Policy, when he learned of Maduro’s decision. And like him, numerous diplomats and deputies both in Europe and in Latin America rejected the measure. What some anticipate is that the reaction of Brussels ends up being limited to formal announcements, because diplomacy, especially when faced with authoritarian systems, is frequently impotent and lacks forcefulness.
« Here everything will depend on what the governments decide. But, for the time being, I do not think that this will go from declarations of reciprocity principles, » said in an interview with DW Nelson Castellano, a former Venezuelan diplomat to the European Community in Belgium. « This is a desperate decision by Maduro in the face of new European sanctions. This time, those involved are officials who sought to validate the electoral fraud planned for this year. However, it is possible that something similar to what happened is expected at the community level. a few months ago with the German Ambassador, who was also expelled, but was later allowed to return to the country. «
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Winners and losers
But a complete rupture between Brussels and Caracas could reverberate in areas that go beyond the merely diplomatic. That would imply the end of European oversight in Venezuela, a country that has gradually been expelling most of the autonomous international organizations and institutions. In the long term, the absence of activists, human rights defenders and independent diplomatic entities is a threat to factions opposed to the regime, because there would be no spaces or voices to denounce the excesses of those who hold power.
« As a member of the European Parliament, I strongly condemn the cowardly response of the Maduro regime to expel the ambassador of the European Union from Caracas. A rupture of diplomatic relations between the EU and Venezuela would only lead to the increase in the crisis, » Leopoldo said via Twitter. López Gil, MEP and father of the opposition Leopoldo López.
However, for former career diplomat Nelson Castellano, the loser in this clash is Nicolás Maduro. « This affirms its authoritarian character and generates more isolation. In the immediate future it will seem that everything remains the same, but in the long term the countries will change their policies in relation to Venezuela. There could be more energy in favor of the cessation of tyranny, and in the as the electoral solution loses weight – because there are not sufficient guarantees – there will surely be a change in the European vision to achieve a solution. «
In any case, it seems that Europe has many priorities pending in these times of pandemic, as to divert its attention to an endless crisis that is taking place on the other side of the Atlantic.
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Author: Johan Ramírez