When Hugo Chavez accepted the idea from Brazil’s President to create a “Grupo de Amigos” to help in the negotiations with the opposition, what he thought he was doing was finding a respectable way of by-passing the pesky Secretary Genral of the OAS, Cesar Gaviria. In this way, a group of diplomtas friendly to his “revolucion” with a sprinkle of respresentatives from respectable countries, would come to Caracas and replace Gaviria in brokering the negotiations. But it was not to be, when Chavez showed up for the inauguration of the new President of Ecuador, what he found was that a Group of Amigos had already been formed without his input and, not only were they not as friendly as he expected, but appeared to be a Club de Amigos of Cesar Gaviria and not of Hugo Chavez. Chavez pannicked, went to talk to Koffi Ana at the UN, but made no progress. Then he went to talk to Lula Da Silva who not only refused to expand the group, but when Chavez said it may be expanded in the future, Brazil’s Foreign Minister Amorin simply replied “Only God knows the future”.
What Chavez did not know is how similar groups have functioned in Nicaragua and El Salvador. But now he does. After the Friday meeting in Washington, the “amigos” picked the Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorin, probably the “friendliest” Government to Chavez’ as their Coordinator. Amorin announced that the Vice-Ministers of all six countries would be in Caracas by today or tomorrow, much like what happened in in the Central American cases. Moreover, Amorin said that this was an urgent problem, not of months, but of a week at most. Thus, The Vice-Chancellors will arrive, together with the teams of advisors, negotiators and diplomats to apply a full court press on the Venezuelan Government. This is not the friendship that Hugo Chavez was looking for. He wanted to gain time, only time. This ahs been Chavez’ strategy all long since he began losing his popularity, gain time, divide the opposition, change subjects and begin gaining time again.
The question is what will happen when he starts feeling the international pressure right in his own backyard. To some, he will negotiate, to others he will just leave the negotiations and declare himself above the law. In either case, both scenarios appear to indicate that a resolution of the crisis is close at hand. In the first case, there will be peace. In the second, is anybody’s guess. But we shall soon find out.