The Historical And Political Charge Of The Meeting Between Petro And Maduro
After the electoral victory of Gustavo Petro in June this year, what Lenin said is quite close to what has been happening in terms of the recomposition of diplomatic and economic relations between Venezuela and Colombia, where the arrival of the Colombian president a couple of days ago to Caracas to hold an official meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, represents the decisive, formal fact of the resumption of binational cooperation.
A chronological fact allows us to place the importance of the meeting in a temporal framework. In March 2013, President Juan Manuel Santos traveled to Caracas to attend the funeral of President Hugo Chávez, being received by Maduro himself. Then, in 2016, President Maduro and Santos held a private meeting in the city of Puerto Ordaz, in which they addressed various issues of the bilateral relationship.
Since then, no head of government of the neighboring country had arrived in Caracas to meet with the Venezuelan president, much less with the Miraflores Palace as a backdrop. In other words, we are talking about a six-year arc of estrangement marked by confrontation and the progressive destruction of commercial, economic and diplomatic ties between both nations, which Petro reversed with his visit to Caracas.
The strategy of clash and siege that Santos prefigured at the end of his term and that later the government of Iván Duque revived to the extreme by participating in operations of paramilitary profile with the purpose of overthrowing Maduro. By recognizing, in 2019, the fake government headed by Juan Guaidó, in communion with U.S. geostrategic interests, undoubtedly constituted an attack against the basic reason of State of peaceful coexistence and preservation of peace that should prevail between two countries that share an extensive territorial border of 2,200 kilometers, a pendular migratory flow and joint challenges in the area of security.
Even with the obvious differences in the historical-social composition of Eastern Europe and South America, the war in Ukraine is quite illustrative of how the outsourcing instrumentalization, by delegation, of one State against another, the case of Russia, with which they share common ties of history, geography and culture, can have devastating consequences.
As for the master line of the regime change operation against Venezuela, through the outsourced use of Colombia as a pivot of the hybrid war, it can be said that it had attributes of the modeling of the offensive in Ukraine: to originate a historical fracture of the territorial and affective links of a common homeland, as a preliminary step for a bleeding war where the only beneficiary would be, oh surprise, the United States.
This type of strategy was advocated by the theorist of the school of offensive realism, John J. Mearsheimer, in his work The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. He called it “Bait and bleed”, in which two states degrade their military, economic and social resources in a prolonged manner while the state sponsoring the conflict takes advantage of the consequences to reinforce its geopolitical design.
In its own way, and in its own circumstances, the population of the binational border was the main victim of the state vacuum derived from the antagonistic conflict agenda of Uribism against Venezuela. The loss of lines of contact and cooperation for so many years caused that vacuum of institutions and inter-state order in a wide region interconnected by trade and migration, to be filled by an ecosystem of criminal economies, whose axis of gravitation is around drug trafficking and paramilitarism.
The balance of precariousness, human flows controlled by mafia structures, depressed economies on both sides of the border and the penetration of irregular groups with a clear will of territorial appropriation and domination, will remain in the historical record of how the planned collision of two border countries can bring catastrophic results.
Moreover, the course of a low-intensity war programmed for these purposes is framed by the intellectual apparatus of the U.S. military and intelligence commanders. As the Russian-American theorist Andrew Korybko, one of the most authoritative voices on the new wars of the 21st century, highlights in his book Hybrid Wars. Color Revolutions and Unconventional Warfare, the planned use of this unrestricted mode of confrontation and destabilization carries with it a predatory logic that embraces adjacent countries, including their natural resources, economies and societal dynamics.
In view of this scenario, the meeting between Maduro and Petro acquires a symbolic significance of importance, as it implies officially disengaging Colombia from the role assigned by Washington as a geopolitical battering ram against Venezuela in recent years. The Colombian president, by taking his first step on Venezuelan soil, sent a message of independence of his foreign policy to the United States, confirming the will to rebuild constructive and mutually beneficial relations.
This does not mean that Colombia will have a conflictive relationship with Washington; rather, it recalibrates its political and diplomatic position in the region in favor of an attitude (and aptitude) of pragmatic relations.
The President’s visit also implies a structural reversal of the legacy of conflict and antagonistic struggle of Uribism. And, in that sense, this first meeting inaugurates a new stage of binational cooperation, based on respect and diplomacy, but not comparable to the progress achieved with Santos once he defeated Uribe at the polls in 2010.
Unlike the time of normalization of relations during the Santos administration, Petro suggests the will to become, together with Venezuela, a dynamic pole of South American integration, where a rethinking of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), the revitalization of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), when Lula officially takes office in Brazil, can be triangulated with the definitive take-off of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), where Venezuela retains leadership and influence in the Caribbean orbit.
In this sense, the meeting has an unquestionable historical and political connotation, since it gives the first signs of a rapprochement of positions within a common framework of priorities on integration that would allow facing the Latin American chessboard under a co-participation modality, taking advantage of the tail wind provided by the regional shift towards leftist options.
This characteristic, above all the others arising from the meeting, is unprecedented in recent Latin American history, since Colombia was left out of the “first progressive wave”, and its role in the current one is just beginning to develop. But it is vital to accept that a good start has been made: Petro has prioritized his relationship with Venezuela and has given Maduro the place of legitimate president within his first foreign policy activities, which indicates a movement focused not only on repairing relations, but also on contributing to a normalization of Maduro’s presence in the network of institutions and organizations of the international system, whose most important advance was his attendance to the last CELAC summit in Mexico.
The invitation, already accepted, for President Maduro to participate in the mediation between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), is part of this intention.
On the other hand, Petro’s visit implies a gradual change of geo-strategic outlook, or at least the beginning of a modification of Colombia’s location on the geopolitical chessboard. The meeting with Maduro seems to be a partial response to the exclusively Atlantist, pro-U.S. alignment that has historically sustained the neighboring country’s foreign policy, and aims to delimit, on Colombia’s side, a new margin of diplomatic activity focused on the region, where the recognition of Venezuela’s geopolitical stature is vital.
An important aspect to take into account is how Petro has put pragmatic cooperation above ideology, giving decisive weight to the normalization of consular and diplomatic relations, the reactivation of trade and the reorganization of the migratory flow.
This was reflected in the Joint Declaration signed by both presidents, which establishes a stable road map to advance in the promotion of relations, under an incremental parameter of repair and promotion of binational cooperation.
Beyond the romanticizing narrative so usual in this type of events, it is true that the meeting has a historical charge derived from the Bolivarian legacy that constitutes the critical knot of the social and cultural ties between both countries.
This was framed in the Declaration, where it is stated that: “We are the same, we are mixed by history, by a common root, we are mixed by blood. Therefore, separating nations becomes a suicidal adventure”.
Seen from this perspective, the meeting between both presidents starts from the conception that the destiny of Colombia and Venezuela have a relationship of mutual dependence, which implies a symbolic break with respect to an uribismo mobilized for years to fracture precisely that historical reality.
The Bolivarian feature of Petro’s visit, in short, does not go through empty mentions to brotherhood and cultural unity, but through the very heart of the Liberator’s doctrine, which understood New Granada as a material base for the configuration of a new geopolitical order due to its economic, geographic and territorial attributes.
In the Letter of Jamaica, Bolivar expressed that “New Granada, which is, so to speak, the heart of America” and its “position, though unknown, is most advantageous in all respects. Its access is easy, and its situation so strong, that it can be made impregnable. It has a pure and healthy climate, a territory as suitable for agriculture as for cattle breeding, and a great abundance of timber”.
Although the geopolitical, institutional and legal rearrangements have changed the political reality that shaped the first independent republics of the 19th century, the material composition of Colombia as outlined by Bolivar is still present and, in a context of contraction of the world economy and the dispute for raw materials led by the great capitalist powers, a presidential meeting that has put the Colombian people in a position to make the world economy more competitive, a presidential meeting that has brought to the forefront the will for complementarity and urgent common priorities, has a historical connotation for the approach of pending matters and the configuration of conditions to expand the room for maneuver in defense of the sovereignty and material welfare of both countries, in view of the vast resources that can be engaged in the long term.