Montevideo, the capital of “neutral/neutralized” Uruguay is hosting this Thursday an international gathering with countries of the Americas and the European Union to address, and attempt to solve or find a way out to the delicate and worsening situation in Venezuela.
In reality there are two different groups and approaches, one is the so called Montevideo Mechanism, sponsored by Mexico and Uruguay, and supported by the Caribbean Community and some Latin American countries. They announced a four points good faith approach of dialogue, negotiation, communication and willingness to contribute, as the formula for the two-presidents Venezuela.
The other group under Federica Mogherini, responsible for EU's foreign affairs, identified as the International Contact Group on Venezuela, ICG, attempts to distance itself from the more hard line interventionist stance implemented by United States, Canada and Latin American powers that openly support the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaidó and want Nicolas Maduro to step down.
The ICG, launched just late last month, has said its aim is to find a “political and peaceful process” within 90 days in which Venezuelans determine their own future, through the holding of free, transparent and credible elections.
The purpose of the international contact group is clear -- it is enabling Venezuelans to express themselves freely and democratically through the holding of new elections, Mogherini said after a meeting last week of EU foreign ministers in Bucharest.
This is black and white on paper and it's clear. It's not about mediating, it's not about forms of dialogue. We have seen processes before that have indeed been used just to buy time.
The EU is also divided on the issue since most members have finally recognized Guaido as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela, while Italy and Slovakia have defied and criticized US policy.
However it is clear that the Montevideo Mechanism and the ICG not necessarily coincide, because dialogue and negotiations do not match with free, transparent credible elections, in 90 days, particularly when the leading countries of Europe have openly supported Guaido, who, given past experiences, also rejects point blank any dialogue as a Maduro resource to gain time.
Mexico's new government position under Manuel Lopez Obrador is understandable, not only to distance itself from the previous administration, but also because it represents traditional Mexican foreign policy principles. In effect, as a famous Mexican writer described so far from God and so close to the US, and after having lost half of the country with the Hidalgo treaty to the northern neighbor, Mexico has been historically allergic to any form of intervention.
Likewise the Caricom countries: when spotlights go off they will still be close neighbors of Venezuela and most of them have benefited from cheap crude supplied by a generous Chavista foreign policy.
In the case of Uruguay, and its so called neutrality, it is not necessarily what it sounds or looks. In effect the ruling coalition nests a majority group which includes ex president Jose Mujica, the communist party and radicals who are admirers of Hugo Chavez, his Bolivarian revolution, and not to mention the Castro dynasty in Cuba.
Said that, ideology is not the only element, but rather crony, abusive capitalism. Several members of Mujica's entourage have benefitted as intermediaries in food and services country to country sales to Venezuela. They have the right to make a few bucks, like any other business people, argued Mujica in their defense. However he forgot to mention that since Venezuela is broke a significant percentage of those sales remain unpaid, which among other things represented a major blow to Uruguay's dairy industry.
Mujica at one time, while in Caracas, even showed off with picture of him wearing a Chavista Army jacket. When he was criticized and asked why he did it, he simply replied ”it was cold in (tropical) Venezuela.
But the more formal wing of the Uruguayan ruling coalition also took advantage of the easy money to be made with the corrupt Bolivarian officials, and in this category outstands one of the sons of president Tabare Vazquez, Javier Vazquez. A computer expert he has been involved in the sale of such services, plus allegedly school books, which it is not clear if they ever made it to Venezuela, but the checks rolled in.
Javier is quite a character. Two of his business partners in dealings with Venezuela died in mysterious circumstances, one drowned, the other supposedly committed suicide, which is most strange since none of them was strained by family, love, financial or depression issues, rather the contrary given the bright future ahead.
This somehow could help to understand the very contemplative, if not supportive, attitude of the Mujica and Vazquez administrations towards the Venezuelan regime: forcibly integrating Venezuela to Mercosur and later contrary to dumping her out; not condemning excesses committed by Venezuelan authorities regarding human rights and freedom of expression and of the press; refusing to call Maduro and his regime a dictatorship, defending rigged electoral processes, and even the recent, apparently failed, attempt to have Venezuelan funds transferred for safeguard to Uruguay from Portugal.
It can be clearly accepted also that Mr. Maduro and his most efficient Cuban intelligence service are well aware of Mujica and Vazquez sins and like to remind them when needed.
No wonder then that a Mexican former foreign secretary, and despite working for a corrupt government such as that of Enrique Peña Nieto, is nevertheless recognized for his professionalism and mastering of diplomacy, international law and political science, Jorge Castaneda Gutamn made some extraordinary remarks about the current Uruguayan president.
Uruguay has a neutral stance in the Venezuelan situation for extra diplomatic reasons, said Castaneda. Uruguay has a great legitimacy in foreign policy, but in this case there is a personal very complicated problem and that is that the son of president Vazquez has done an enormous quantity of business transactions in Venezuela, and he is up to his neck in mud with the Venezuela dealings
And the Venezuelans and the Cubans know about it, and each time Uruguay steps out of the line they squeeze him, they pinch him, a little, to remind him”, pointed out the Mexican former foreign secretary.
The statements were done on January 28 during a debate forum of experts in Televisa, Mexico's main television channel, precisely to discuss the position of Mexico and Uruguay regarding the Venezuelan situation. Thus the question is valid, Uruguay is neutral or neutralized?