In a remarkable tactical turn, the United States proposed this Tuesday a plan for the return of democracy in Venezuela through a “transition government” that includes representatives of the current president, Nicolas Maduro, and the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, and leads to “free and fair elections”.

The proposal was first outlined by the U.S. State Department’s Venezuelan official, Elliott Abrams.

TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT WITHOUT MATURING AND GUAIDÓ

“This plan proposes that both Maduro, the former president who has held on to power, and Juan Guaidó, the interim president, step aside so that elected members of the National Assembly on both sides can create a Council of State to serve as a transitional government, which will organize free and fair presidential elections,” Abrams said in an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Abrams added that “if the necessary conditions are met,” the government of President Donald Trump is “prepared to withdraw the economic sanctions” imposed on Caracas.

Shortly afterwards, at a press conference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the sanctions would be lifted only after this transitional government was established and the “foreign security forces” left Venezuela, in a veiled reference to Cuba.

FREE ELECTIONS WITH CHAVISTAS AND OPPONENTS

The plan of President Donald Trump’s administration includes concessions to the government of current President Maduro, by recognizing its participation in the eventual presidential elections.

“The United States does not support any particular political party in Venezuela. We support a return to democracy and believe that all parties, including the regime’s party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), should be able to compete on a level playing field in free and fair elections,” Abrams added.

However, Pompeo said Washington has made it clear that Maduro “will not govern again.
He stressed that Guaidó, who is recognized as president by more than 60 countries in the international community, could run in this presidential election.

“I think he is the most popular politician in Venezuela. I think that if there were an election today, he could do incredibly well,” Pompeo told reporters.

The framework proposed by the United States contemplates legislative and presidential elections in a period of between 9 and 12 months.

THE BRANCH AND THE OLIVE TREE

Trump’s tactical shift has generated surprise as it comes less than a week after his Justice Department announced money laundering and terrorism charges against Nicolas Maduro and 14 other Chavista figures, as well as two dissidents from the former FARC guerrilla group for drug trafficking.

“The plan announced today is an important clarification of U.S. policy toward Venezuela,” Eric Farnsworth, a former U.S. official and vice president of the Council of the Americas think tank, told Efe.

In Farnsworth’s opinion, “Maduro will have to decide his own future, but there is a negotiation that can be made: withdraw the recent charges against him in exchange for him leaving power and leaving the country”.

“The Trump Administration,” Farnsworth stressed, “seems to have committed itself to getting Maduro out, and is using sanctions as a tool. Once this goal is achieved, the sanctions will presumably be lifted.

From Congress, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, one of President Trump’s closest legislators in Latin American politics, expressed cautious support for the State Department’s initiative.

“Secretary Pompeo is right to recognize a peaceful return to democracy in Venezuela led by a widely acceptable transitional government as the ideal way forward. And such an effort would require the support and participation of the military and key leaders who represent a cross-section of political views,” Rubio said in a statement.

“But,” he warned, “it will fail if it leaves Juan Guaidó and the legitimately elected National Assembly that he leads aside. Or if it includes Nicolás Maduro and certain members of the mafia he controls.

The United States sanctioned the state oil company PDVSA, Venezuela’s main source of foreign exchange, more than a year ago, and since then has pressured and threatened with sanctions countries and companies around the world to stop their oil business with Caracas.

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