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Finding a Magical Realism Solution to Venezuela

As Venezuela bleeds, the works of Garcia Marquez offer inspiration for a possible path to the peaceful resolution of the horror that is daily life in Venezuela under the Maduro regime.
John Feeley was US Ambassador to Panama and is a Univision political analyst.
Un mural en honor de Gabriel García Márquez, en Aracataca, su pueblo natal. Crédito: John Vizcaino/Reuters

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ gift to the world was the genre of fiction known as 'magical realism.' But Don Gabo's fiction was informed by serious investigative journalism and diligent observation of the men and women of Colombia’s storied Atlantic Coast, the not-so fictitious land he called 'Macondo'.

For a first-time reader of Garcia Marquez, the phantasmagorical, the surreal and the impossible-to-believe, require the reader’s suspension of convention. Let’s suspend convention for a moment and look at the ongoing tragedy of Venezuela.

On February 23, legitimate interim president Juan Guaido and his team of Venezuelan democrats, supported by the international community, failed to deliver tons of U.S. humanitarian assistance to Venezuela. Maduro gave the soulless order to prevent the aid from crossing the bridges from Colombia into Venezuela.

Post-event analysis spanned from the genuinely disappointed to the cynics who ascribed a shocking naiveté to Guiado and his colleagues, to the truly crestfallen and increasingly desperate Venezuelan populace.

A few days later, during an interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos in Caracas, the dictator Maduro became enraged when Ramos showed him images of ordinary Venezuelans eating from garbage trucks. He stopped the interview, seized the journalist’s equipment and briefly held Ramos and his team against their will.

( Cue the first Macondo, I-can’t believe-what-I’m-seeing-moment.)

Among the strongest voices of condemnation and outrage at this brazen assault on the freedom of expression were the U.S. State Department and Fox News. Almost as soon as he returned, Ramos tweeted his profound gratitude for the actions of the State Department and Fox. He then had a respectful interview with Trump-Apologist-in-Chief, Sean Hannity, in which the two men agreed to put aside their political differences. Ramos thanked Hannity, and Hannity recognized “ this isn’t about politics.”

That Maduro could be the deus ex machina of a genuine moment of journalistic rapprochement between Ramos and Hannity is worthy of Garcia Marquez’ Macondo … but it really happened.

Yet Venezuela still bleeds. So let’s return to Garcia Marquez for inspiration in finding a possible path to the peaceful resolution of the horror that is daily life in Venezuela under the Maduro regime

From Russia (and maybe China?) With Love

Dialogue is a dirty word in the context of Maduro’s Venezuela, and with good reason. Repeatedly failed efforts pushed by Brazil, Spain, and the United States, resulted only in a consolidation of power by Maduro and his thugocracy.

However, dialogue is not necessarily the same as a negotiated exit.

Let’s assume that the United Nations is willing to play the referee’s role. Note: not a mediating role between Guaido and Maduro. Let’s further establish four preconditions for such a discussion, that would be agreed to in the context of a U.N. Security Council resolution. This would obviously have to include the five permanent members of the UN Security council (United States, Russia, China, France and UK) voting in favor of such an engagement.

Preconditions stipulated in the resolution would include:

- A defined period of time for discussion at the end of which Maduro voluntarily abandons Miraflores Palace and leaves Venezuela.
- An agreed upon country of exile that voluntarily accepts the chavista tyrant.
- A Security Council-determined, non-negotiable number of individuals and amount of money Maduro may bring with him.
- A commitment by the International Criminal Court not to pursue Maduro and his party, provided they do not leave their exile destination. Ever.

Magical realism, or just magical fantasy? Most would say the latter.

However, consider that Russia has several billion of dollars in soft loans and oil concessions exposed in the failing state, with next to no chance of recovering it if Maduro stays. Consider that China is in a similar situation with even greater exposure.

Finally, consider that Cuba, which has provided scads of intelligence officers and political commissars to Maduro’s regime, and remains the last significant beneficiary of PetroCaribe, stands to lose that precious, subsidized oil if and when the United States enacts secondary sanctions. In other words, Maduro’s benefactors are all quickly realizing that he just ain’t worth the effort.

Who could convince Maduro to accept such preconditions? Enter Vladimir Putin. Why would Putin agree to squeeze Maduro like this? Because it will make him appear a humanitarian and supporter of regional stability in the Western Hemisphere. Who might convince Trump to collaborate with the Russians and the Chinese in the U.N. Security Council? Why Vladimir Putin, of course.

China is about to finalize a free trade agreement with the tariff happy Trump Administration. How about, if instead of tariffs, the United States makes clear that China cannot continue to prop up the Maduro regime and should withdraw its support to seal the trans-pacific trade pact between the world’s two largest economies? A deal Xi Jinping would take in a Mandarin minute.

Seasoned diplomats and other observers in Venezuela’s Macondian horror show will be quick to point out the numerous ways such a gambit could go wrong. And they will not be altogether wrong. So perhaps we should once again look to Garcia Marquez’ words for inspiration, “It is not true that people stop pursuing their dreams because they grow old; they grow old because they stop pursuing their dreams.”

Let’s not get old on Venezuela.