Former Caracas mayor and political exile Antonio Ledezma met in Washington, D.C. today with the head of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro. Ledezma fled Venezuela last month via Colombia and is now residing in Spain after spending more than two years under regime custody.
After his escape from Venezuela on November 17, Ledezma has arguably become the loudest and most important opposition voice outside of the country. In the ten days since his escape, Ledezma has been particularly critical of the Mesa de la Unidad‘s [MUD] effort to engage in dialogue with the Maduro regime, an effort which he called “a parody” earlier today.
Ledezma announced his visit with Almagro through a tweet, which you can see below along with my translation:
This morning, I met with Secretary General [Luis Almagro] at the OAS, where I came to speak not about my liberation, but about the liberation of Venezuela, which [will not be achieved] by that so-called dialogue that is taking place in the Dominican Republic.
Ledezma met with Almagro for approximately two hours.
Almagro: The MUD Does Not Represent the Opposition
Following his meeting with Ledezma, Almagro spoke to reporters and weighed in on the talks set to take place in the Dominican Republic this weekend between the MUD and the ruling PSUV party. Almagro provided a grim assessment of the talks, saying that they were not based on “an agenda that can resolve the main problems in the country”.
Almagro also leveled a harsh criticism of the MUD bloc, saying that the organization included individuals who are not in fact opposed to the Maduro regime. Almagro said:
There are people who are in the opposition and there are people who are not in the opposition inside the [MUD]…
The MUD’s goals and intentions have become a topic of fierce debate in opposition circles in recent weeks. While some opposition supporters believe that a negotiated deal with the PSUV is the only solution to the crisis affecting the country, others consider any negotiation with the dictatorship to be tantamount to heresy. Such is the ferocity of the debate that the MUD appeared to be teetering on the brink of collapse over the matter.
For Almagro, the biggest issue with the Dominican Republic talks is that they are intended to pave a way for a 2018 presidential election, a fact that Almagro considers will “allow Maduro to govern for six more years”.
Santos Calls on Maduro To Allow Aid Into Venezuela
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos spoke on the Venezuelan crisis today, and called on the Maduro regime to allow international aid in the form of food and medicine to flow into the country. Santos said that Maduro has refused offers from Colombia to send help:
For a very long time we’ve been offering [Maduro] humanitarian aid in the shape of food and food, and the Venezuelan government has refused it. I reiterate my request that you allow this humanitarian aid that Colombia and the international community has offered you in the shape of food and medicine to [enter Venezuela].
The Maduro regime has yet to admit that there is a humanitarian crisis in the country despite overwhelming evidence. The regime has gone as far as to turn aid away at ports of entry.
Santos’ plea took a personal tone when he addressed it directly to Maduro, saying:
President Maduro, please allow the international community to help the Venezuelan people in this moment of crisis, a crisis that was started by the regime and not by Colombia or by external forces as you have suggested to many times.
One of the central pillars of the Maduro regime’s world view is that every ill afflicting the country is the work of a vast conspiracy involving enemies both foreign or domestic, including but not limited to the governments of Colombia, Spain, and the United States, as well as diaspora communities in Miami and elsewhere.
Santos said that Maduro “appears to not be aware” of the toll that the crisis is taking on Venezuelans, including the fact that people “dying of disease due to a lack of medicine”.
Maduro often launches into vitriolic attacks against Santos. During a televised speech two weeks ago, Maduro accused Colombia of denying medicine from reaching Venezuela, a claim that the Colombian government soundly rejected. During that speech, Maduro said:
Choke on that medicine, [Santos]. We’re buying [medicine] from India, and it’s going to reach Venezuela very soon. Choke on that medicine, and your drugs, and your cocaine.
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