MEXICO CITY (AP) — Months before COVID-19 spread around the world, representatives of President Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan opposition for weeks shuttled back and forth to Barbados to try to agree on a common path out of the South American nation’s prolonged political standoff. Mystery surrounded the discussions facilitated by Norwegian diplomats in the summer of 2019, but Venezuelans were hopeful for change.
The fragile process, however, fell apart when the administration of then-President Donald Trump announced sweeping new sanctions freezing all of the Venezuelan government’s assets in the U.S. Maduro’s allies would not return to the table. The opposition would go on to lose its National Assembly leadership in an election. Soon, the world’s attention shifted to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two years and a few days after the discussions in the Caribbean ended, both sides will meet Friday, this time in Mexico, under very different circumstances, the only constant being that Maduro remains in power. The country’s crises have worsened, the opposition has weakened and fractured, the U.S.’s policy toward Venezuela remains unclear, and millions of people in the troubled country are more focused on surviving the pandemic than on politics.