Petro heads to Caracas as Maduro hails close ties with Colombia

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Petro was received at the Miraflores Palace by President Maduro. Photo: Presidencia.

Petro heads to Caracas. Again. The Colombian President’s face-to-face meeting with Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro is his fifth since taking office 19 months ago and comes days after the South American dictator presented the ballot for the July 28 presidential elections. A ballot on which he placed his official picture in 13 boxes to avoid confusing voters. The meeting between Petro and Maduro also comes days after Colombia’s Foreign Minister (in charge) Luis Gilberto Murillo hosted his Venezuelan counterpart Yvan Gil.

During the Foreign Ministers’ encounter in the largest Colombian city on the border between the two countries – Cúcuta – Chancellor Gil praised his country’s electoral system as “almost perfect,” despite all evidence suggesting the contrary. “What is happening in Venezuela is part of a process with a truly wonderful electoral system, an audited electoral system, an electoral system that we could classify as almost perfect,” he professed.

Gil’s remarks come at a critical juncture as Venezuela approaches its presidential elections on July 28, marred by widespread condemnation across the hemisphere – except Colombia – regarding fairness and transparency. And one does not have to look beyond the ballot to realize there are no opposition candidates of the chavista dictatorship on the slate.

While Gil reassured that the nomination process had concluded successfully, with all 37 registered political organizations able to submit candidates, his assertions face deep skepticism given the ongoing political strife within the nation. “The reality is that 100% of the political organizations in Venezuela registered candidates,” Gil affirmed, despite the National Election Council barring María Corina Machado’s designated substitute, the 80-year-old academic Corina Yoris.

The July 28 Venezuelan election card.

The foreign diplomat then brazenly denied the existence of the notorious multinational criminal gang “Tren de Aragua,” labeling it as “international fiction” despite widespread well-documented criminal activities in Colombia and the United States. The Venezuelan’s assertions serve as a stark reminder of the disconnect between Venezuela’s official rhetoric and realities on the ground. More concerning is the Colombian Foreign Minister’s acquiescence with one of Maduro’s close political allies, even after the regime proposed that Colombia act as an “electoral observer” in the July 28 elections.

While Petro condemned the “antidemocratic coup” against Machado’s official candidate, he has yet to condemn a Venezuelan tribunal’s ruling to ban the winner of last year’s primaries from participating in these baseless and fraudulent elections. So what can Petro deliver in Caracas, besides a photo opportunity with a dictator who increasingly has been shunned by Central and South American leaders?

As the April 18 deadline looms over Washington to announce reinstating sanctions against the Venezuelan government or letting the “almost perfect” election process run its course, Petro could apply some verbal pressure with Maduro to deescalate political persecution of the two Corinas (Machado and Yoris) and invite foreign observation missions to monitor the July 28 elections as stipulated in the now-defunct Barbados Accord.

Before Petro’s visit to Miraflores Palace, Maduro set the tone of this latest face-to-face with his leftist counterpart. “Nobody and nothing can separate us from Colombia,” stated Maduro. “We have big goals to accomplish together: advancing the economy, trade, peace; we are helping Colombia in peace, we will continue together.” Another question many Republicans will raise in Washington, is if the Maduro-Petro partnership poses a threat to the democratic stability of Colombia.