Venezuela opposition figure Guaido in Colombia ahead of summit

Colombian President Gustavo Petro is hosting int’l summit aimed at resolving political crisis in neighbouring Venezuela.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido in close-up
'I hope this summit can ensure that the Maduro regime returns to the negotiating table in Mexico,' says Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido about upcoming talks in Colombia [File: Gaby Oraa/Reuters]

Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido says he has travelled to Colombia, a day before a meeting organised by Colombian President Gustavo Petro seeking to find a way out of the longstanding political crisis in Venezuela.

In a statement on Monday, Guaido said he had crossed into Colombia “on foot” and intended to request meetings with international delegates attending Tuesday’s summit in the capital, Bogota.

He also said he hoped the summit would result in a commitment from the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to resume negotiations with the opposition, which began in Mexico in 2021 but have been on hold since November.

“I hope this summit can ensure that the Maduro regime returns to the negotiating table in Mexico and agrees to a credible timetable for free and fair elections to solve the current situation,” Guaido said.

After the re-election of Maduro in 2018 was deemed a sham by dozens of countries, Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s interim president in 2019.

However, his popularity has since waned and opposition lawmakers voted in January to strip him of that role and instead appoint a committee to run what they call their “interim government”.

Petro, who took office in August last year as the first left-wing president in Colombian history, has sought to mend relations with the country’s neighbour, reopening key border crossings with Venezuela and resuming diplomatic ties between the two nations.

The Colombian leader has said Tuesday’s meeting aims to reach an agreement on general elections in Venezuela and the eventual lifting of United States sanctions against the South American nation.

The crisis in Venezuela, which has experienced a mass exodus amid years of economic hardships and political tensions, also was raised in talks between Petro and US President Joe Biden at the White House last week.

In a statement to reporters after his visit on Thursday, Petro said a “strategy was proposed” that might see US sanctions against Venezuela lifted if “an electoral agenda is fulfilled”.

Guaido has continuously criticised Petro’s policies towards Maduro, including the planned conference, which will be attended by representatives of the US and at least 15 Latin American and European countries.

On Saturday night, members of the Venezuelan opposition met Petro in Bogota.

Gerardo Blyde, head of the opposition delegation in the negotiations in Mexico and Colombian Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva also spoke after the meeting. Leyva said that he expects elections to take place with “all the rules of the inter-American system” in 2024.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies