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Venezuela transition to last 2 yrs: ex-oil minister


By Argus

Petroleumworld 03 08 2019

Prominent members of Venezuela´s political opposition expect a transition period ahead of new elections will take as long as two years to allow time to rebuild gutted institutions.

Speaking at the conservative La Sabana University outside Bogotá, Colombia, yesterday, Venezuela´s former oil minister and current opposition ambassador to Colombia Humberto Calderón Berti said a transition government "cannot last for less than one and a half to two years."

This stage will be "extremely complicated" and "traumatic" as the country works to recover institutions such as the national electoral council (CNE) that are now controlled by the "Stalinist regime" of President Nicolas Maduro, he told students.

"Protesting is very different from governing. We have to prepare to govern," said Calderón, who asserted that the biggest challenge will be restoring Venezuela´s "morals and ethics" that have been undermined by corruption.

Calderón is part of a fledgling parallel diplomatic corps appointed by Juan Guaidó, the head of Venezuela´s National Assembly whom most Western countries recognize as the country´s interim president.

Guaidó, who returned to Venezuela on 4 March following a tour of Latin American capitals, has said that elections could be held in six to nine months after Maduro departs.

Calderon´s remarks, which were echoed by two Venezuelan academics from the university, suggest a sobering of initial expectations for swift change and insight into the perspective of prominent exiles with influence over how a transition will play out.

Although Guaidó has stepped back from earlier hints at inviting US military intervention , and US officials have poured cold water on the prospect, some opposition figures still see this as a possibility.

Venezuelan law professor José Manuel Guanipa, who belongs to a prominent opposition family, said no one wants military intervention, "but if that is what it takes, so be it."

Venezuela's 1999 constitution says elections are supposed to be held within 30 days after a transition presidency is established, a clause that Guanipa dismissed as unrealistic.

Speaking before a US Senate panel today, US Agency for International Development administrator Mark Green said the US will be ready to provide logistical and financial assistance with organizing elections in Venezuela.

Guanipa and veteran academic José Rodríguez Iturbe, who participated with Calderón in Venezuela´s Social Christian Party (Copei), praised US president Donald Trump for taking a tough stance on Venezuela. "Without US policy, the Lima Group would not have done a thing," Rodríguez said, referring to the Lima Group of Latin American countries and Canada that was formed in 2017 to coordinate action on Venezuela.

"American liberals would have been a problem for us," he added, alluding to Trump´s defeat of Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton in the November 2016 US presidential elections.

All three Venezuelans lauded Colombia for welcoming Venezuelan migrants and standing firm against Maduro, who has refused to step down despite mounting economic and political pressure.

Calderón, a petroleum engineer, served as oil minister and chief executive of Venezuelan national oil company PdV in the years prior to late president Hugo Chavez´s 1998 election.

Calderon´s lengthy career includes a founding role in the Colombian independent oil company Vetra which is currently controlled by the private equity firm Capital Group.


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