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Venezuela

A New, More Realistic Strategy Against Venezuela's Dogged Regime?

The Western-aligned Lima Group is now seeking help from the more neutral International Contact Group, and even Cuba, to resolve the political deadlock in Venezuela.

Anti-Maduro protest in Valencia, Venezuela on May 3
Anti-Maduro protest in Valencia, Venezuela on May 3
Beatriz Miranda

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — After several attempts to accelerate the overthrow of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro, after the failed April 30 uprising, the unsuccessful take-over of the Carlota air base in Caracas, the liberation of chief dissident Leopoldo López and miscalculations by opposition leader Juan Guaidó and his allies, the Lima Group is changing its tactics.

The decision came after Maduro's repeated wins, the military high command's refusal to betray the president against opposition hopes, and the muddled, anemic mobilization on the streets, in spite of everything. Certainty about victory a few months back has given way to a more bitter, tactical and strategic rethink in the Lima Group, which hasn't hidden its desire to see the back of Venezuela's socialist regime.

Thus the Group's foreign ministers held a lengthy, closed-door meeting in Peru, without the frenzy of tweets or online statements but under the guidance of the United States, after which they reiterated their support for the Venezuelan opposition and its actions against Maduro's government. With a more realistic tone cleansed of the earlier, euphoric hopes for Maduro's immediate departure, the Group has landed back on earth and removed the element of haste and anxiety more typical of people negotiating not for a cause, but for their own interests. It is now contemplating what should have been a priority on its agenda from the start: a negotiated exit.

Is this a bid to return to classical diplomacy and a minimum level of common sense?

Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru, with members of the Venezuelan opposition, signed a joined communiqué. The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was expected to contact the ministers but did not, for "technical problems." This might seem unusual when a subject of such importance to the White House was being discussed, but in these lands of magic realism, technical glitches could mean a change of strategy. The final declaration would suggest it.

Members agreed in Point Five of their declaration to propose to the International Contact Group an urgent meeting between envoys of both groups, to seek convergence on finding a way to restore democracy to Venezuela. It is the first time the Lima Group envisages moving closer to the International Contact Group consisting of Uruguay, Mexico, Bolivia, Costa Rica and several EU member states. Since a deterioration of the crisis in Venezuela, this group has been responsibly urging dialogue between the government and the opposition. Is this a bid to return to classical diplomacy and a minimum level of common sense?

Maduro, not going anywhere — Photo: OEA - OAS

In Point 11, Lima foreign ministers say they would take necessary steps for Cuba to take part in the possible dialogue. It is difficult to see Washington, which is just tightening sanctions against Cuba, accepting the Caribbean island's inclusion in any talks. So does this indicate an incipient divergence between the Lima Group and the U.S.?

The United States and Russia will be talking about Venezuela in coming days, and both countries still have in their hands important pieces of this strategic game designed to neutralize the possibility of a military intervention to restore democracy and rebuild Venezuela. Touting this is facile and underestimates the pain of millions of Venezuelans suffering from a humanitarian crisis not of their own making. Caught at a geo-strategic juncture, they may well ask, what is this democracy, and who is it for?

Hopefully, a change of strategy will trace a road map to regional peace.

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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