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ARGENTINA | 08-11-2019 10:26

What does Alberto Fernández’s election mean for the Lima Group?

Seen as many Latin American neighbours as sympathetic to Venezuela’s government, Alberto Fernández’s rise to the presidency may require a shift in the group’s posture.

Peru is seeking to relaunch the Lima Group today when the foreign ministers of the bloc's nations meet this Friday in Brazil. The meeting comes at a crucial moment for the region, in which the collective needs to re-evaluate its objectives if it is to reach a common regional position on the crisis in Venezuela. 

In this context, the Peruvian government announced Thursday that the new chancellor Gustovo Meza-Cuadra will attend the meeting to “continue the dialogue about the search for a peaceful political solution to the crisis in Venezuela.” 

Details of a proposal remain unknown but the Peruvian foreign minister alluded to one on October 29 during an international conference in Brussels focused on the Venezuela issue. 

“We have the goal of relaunching the Lima Group with new ideas and initiatives. We have to work with the International Contact Group,” he said while chief of diplomacy via the radio station RPP. The statements were then reproduced by Peru’s permanent representation within the Organisation of American States. 

“The Lima Group has to revise its positions because the Argentina case has changed the internal working realities of the group,” said political analyst Alberto Adrianzen to AFP.

Adrianzen was the first to allude to the probable change in Peru's position on the future of the group. 

The bloc is no longer “the Lima Group that applied the diplomacy of United States president Donald Trump in the region,” he said.

One item the Lima Group bloc will address is the wave of migration out of Venezuela that has yet to cease. 

“The errors of the Maduro regime has generated many problems for countries in this region, like the immigration of nearly four million people,” according to Adrianzen. 

Division also exists within the Lima Group’s around the leadership of Venezuela. One strain negotiated with Maduro. The other has spotlighted support for the opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who the group recognises as the rightful president of the country. 

'Free and fair'

In January 2019, the group released a statement saying elections in Venezuela during May 2018 had not met the “free and fair” standards. But Mexico, a founding member under new leadership of Andres Manuel López Obrador, declined to sign the statement. Mexico's snub signalled a possible to return the the non-interventionist policy — the Estrada Doctrine — that governed the nation’s foreign policy agenda for much of the 20th century. 

Caracas’ recent victory at the United Nations, when it won election as a member of the human rights commission, strengthened Maduro. 

That has been accompanied by the upcoming return to power of the Peronist party in Argentina, whose good relationship with Venezuela under Maduro dates back a decade during the governors of Nestór Kirchner and then his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. 

Alberto Fernández, Argentina’s newly elected president, advocated non-interventionist policies similar to those of López Obrador during his campaign and made a number of comments on the trail that hinted at support for Maduro’s government.

“Dictators have non-democratic origins. That’s not the case in Venezuela,” he said in an August interview on a local television news network. 

Such comments have generated angst among some Latin American neighbours, who fear the rise of Fernández's Frente de Todos party to political power marks the loss of another country to the far left. 

The president-elect travelled to Mexico earlier this week to meet with López Obrador, his first international trip since winning the October 27 elections. The two reportedly discussed Venezuela, among other regional and commercial issues. 

While there, Fernández also met with Mauricio Claver-Carone, the US representative for Latin America and the Caribbean. According to reporting from Clarín, the two discussed Latin America and the situations in Chile and Ecuador. 

Counterpart

The Lima Group, which joined 12 Latin American countries and Canada to search for an end to the Venezuelan crisis, was created in 2017.  

Fernández will host the second meeting of the Grupo de Puebla, a progressive counterpoint to the Lima Group, in Buenos Aires this weekend. Twelve member countries drew up a charter in July 2018 during their first meeting in Mexico City, in which they declared their purpose was to contain the “advance of of right wing conservatism” across Latin America. 

The Grupo de Puebla’s goal is to “design a new outlook that adjusts to new times and convenes all sectors of society to denounce interests of the right, create new links between workers and politics, and promote new expressions of social and citizen organisation.” The charter goes on to say this new world view will search for “equality between men and women, environmental protection, inclusion and respect of diversities, greater transparency and the participation of the people in decision-making.” 

In a September statement, the group said it rejects any military intervention in Venezuela or any other use of force.

--AFP/TIMES

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