Anyone familiar with the current political relationship between newly-elected Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro isn’t likely to describe the relationship as conducive to peace, but that’s exactly what international relations experts were hoping for when the two leaders met in the Caribbean coastal town of Cartagena de Indias. Although many people note that a mutually beneficial relationship between the two men seems unlikely, it remains to be seen whether the leaders will be able to reach peaceful negotiations between their respective countries.
After his recent June 15th re-election in Colombia, Santos called upon Maduro to seek peaceful negotiations, although critics of the meeting note that Santos was badly in need of a positive PR stint to boost his reputation, which appears to be suffering as his negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia appear to be failing. Santos’ predecessor and current political rival, Alvaro Uribe, notes that negotiations with Maduro — someone who claims to promote peace in Colombia, but promotes violence and persecution in Venezuela — will likely benefit Venezuela more than Colombia (if negotiations are successful at all).
But political risk-taking isn’t a new strategy for Santos, who successfully stabilized trade relations with Venezuela and its Latin American allies (Bolivia and Ecuador) after tensions were high between Uribe and Hugo Chavez; by reaching out to the Venezuelan government, Santos’ supporters state that he was able to avoid a full-scale cold war situation between the two countries.
As international relations experts have noted, however, Santos’ engagement with Maduro could prove to be invaluable as he strives to show the people that he re-election promise — which was to end the violence that has gripped his country for the better part of the last 50 years. Although Maduro seems an unlikely ally, he may prove to be the political yin to Santos’ yang, to reference an ancient Chinese notion of relationships, and he may give Santos the opportunity to establish peace in a successful way that his predecessors could not achieve.