End game: Juan Guaido ready to negotiate with Maduro

While some may be taking the latest news out of Venezuela as a hopeful note, it may actually spell the beginning of the end of any hope that dictator Nicolas Maduro will be removed from power. We’re hearing from representatives of self-declared interim President Juan Guaido that he is now willing to enter into “negotiations” with Maduro, an option he had rejected as recently as last week. They already have representatives meeting in Norway where they’re trying to find a way out of the current quagmire. And with public support for Guaido’s calls to replace Maduro appearing to decline, it sounds like he’s running out of options. (NY Times)

Weakened and unable to bring the political crisis gripping Venezuela to a quick resolution, Mr. Guaidó has been forced to consider negotiations with Mr. Maduro. Both sides have sent representatives to Norway for talks, a concession Mr. Guaidó previously rejected.

This change is a turning point for the opposition, which in January had gathered momentum, attracting broad international backing and huge crowds of supporters. Now, that momentum has nearly dissipated — a testament to Mr. Maduro’s firm hold on power even as the country crumbles around him.

In public, Mr. Guaidó remains upbeat and unwavering. At flash rallies around the capital, Caracas, he implores supporters to keep up the protests. But during an interview, he acknowledged that the opposition’s capacity to operate is hurting.

“The persecution has been savage,” he said in the empty hallway of one of the safe houses he uses.

This is a disappointing turn of events to be sure, but it may also simply be a case of facing a harsh reality. Most of Guaido’s high profile supporters have either been arrested, fled the country or are holed up in embassies claiming asylum. Guaido himself is, as the report indicates, shuffling back and forth between safe houses and unable to make many public appearances. Maduro has already had the courts strip him of his immunity and eventual prosecution and imprisonment are looking more and more likely.

But what sort of “negotiations” are there to be had? The only thing Guaido could really be asking for is Maduro’s resignation and departure. That’s obviously not something that’s going to be on the table. The only thing keeping the leader of the National Congress out of prison for the moment is a threat from Washington and other nations recognizing Guaido as the legitimate ruler of “significant consequences” should any harm befall him.

If I had to make a prediction right now, I’d say Maduro sees a light at the end of the tunnel. He can offer to not arrest Guaido or any of his family members, possibly even dropping charges against some of his supporters. In return, he’ll want Guaido to make a public statement dropping his demands for Maduro’s expulsion, recognizing him as the rightful president and rescinding his claim to be the interim leader. That provides a fig leaf for all the countries currently recognizing Guaido as president to go back to recognizing Maduro and allowing the situation in Venezuela to return to “normal.”

The problem is that normal in Venezuela these days is anything but. A return to the status quo simply means that Maduro gets to keep all of his ill-gotten wealth and continue running his once prosperous country into the ground. And if that’s how this story ends, it’s a sad day for the entire western hemisphere.