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Imágenes: Getty Images.
Imágenes: Getty Images.

Absurd diplomacy: a check to Duque and Guaidó

The capture of a former Colombian congresswoman in Venezuela brings a new chapter to diplomatic relations between the two countries and exposes the nullity of…

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Una mujer entra esposada un elegante consultorio odontológico, la liberan y le hacen un tratamiento estético. Al final del tratamiento entra su hija con una bolsa de ropa blanca, conversan un rato, se despiden. La mujer queda sola en el consultorio, se cambia el uniforme penitenciario por la nueva muda. Del fondo de la bolsa saca una soga que amarra a un mueble del consultorio y agarrada a ella, sale por la ventana.

Se resbala, se quema las manos con la fricción de la cuerda y cae de nalgas ante la mirada atónita de los transeúntes, que se acercan a preguntarle si está bien, a falta de mejor respuesta. Ninguno se acerca a ayudarle a levantarse.

A woman walks into an elegant dental office in handcuffs, is released and gets a cosmetic treatment. At the end of the treatment, her daughter enters with a bag of white clothes, they talk for a while and say goodbye. The woman is left alone in the office, she changes her prison uniform for the new change of clothes. From the bottom of the bag, she takes a rope that she ties to a piece of furniture in the office and, clinging to it, goes out the window.

She slips, burns her hands with the friction of the rope and falls on her bottom to the astonished gaze of passers-by, who come up to her and ask if she is all right, for lack of a better answer. No one comes to help her get up.

The woman, a little dazed by the blow and perhaps also by the adrenaline of her own actions, gets up without answering and walks clumsily to a motorbike, a couple of metres further on.

The bike has one of Rappi's refrigerators, the Colombian app for home delivery services. It looks as if he had ordered her means of escape through her cell phone.

Hugging her delivery-man, the woman escapes.

This scene is not part of a new comedy film, but the escape of a Colombian ex-congresswoman, Aida Merlano, who is now at the centre of a new turn in diplomatic relations between Colombia and the two Venezuelas: Maduro's and Guaidó's.

Aida Merlano was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Colombian Supreme Court after being found guilty of aggravated corruption and the illegal manufacture, trafficking or carrying of firearms. Crimes that led to her election to Congress for the 2018-2022 period.

The day her lawyer asked for her sentence to be reduced in exchange for giving additional information about the big corruption case involving her, was the film-like escape.

On Monday, January 27, Aida Merlano was captured by the Venezuelan Special Action Forces (FAE) for the crimes of impersonation, use of false documents and association to commit crimes.

Since the ex-congresswoman was escaping from prison, requesting her extradition is a regular occurrence. However, the Colombian government has not had diplomatic relations with Nicolás Maduro's regime since the latter broke them off in February of last year, given Colombian President Iván Duque's support for Juan Guaidó.

Iván Duque announced that the extradition request would be processed through the "legitimate government of Juan Guaidó". But he, even if he has the international support he wants, does not have governance in the country.

"Asking Juan Guaidó to extradite Aida Merlano is like asking the Holy Spirit to extradite her," said Rodolfo Hernández, a former mayor of Bucaramanga. This interpretation has coincided with that of other critics of the government of Iván Duque, the most prominent of whom, Nicolás Maduro, called it "true ridicule." 

"Send your letter, Duque, to Guaidó, commit another imbecility, to see who Guaidó sends you," said Maduro.

Tarek William Saab, the Venezuelan prosecutor, told Blu Radio that Duque had asked for the extradition "of a ghost of Venezuelan politics, something like a nothing that goes around here, around there..."

The diplomacy of the absurd continues to escalate because, faced with Guaidó's evident inability to process the extradition, Iván Duque declared that the procedure would be done through Interpol (since Merlano has a red notice) but, even so, "it is up to that dictatorship to apply the deportation, simply because there is an Interpol red notice, and Interpol procedures must also be complied with in this case."

It is at least striking that logic according to which a regime is unknown because it is considered dictatorial and, at the same time, is expected to participate in the mechanisms of international collaboration of all other governments that do not recognize its validity.

Tarek William Saab, in the same interview in which he called Guaidó a "ghost of Venezuelan politics" said that the government of Nicolás Maduro was willing to collaborate with Colombian justice, but it was the counterpart that did not open the way for diplomatic dialogue.

According to him, while in prison at the Helicoid, "Aida Merlano has sung more than Pavaroti," which would suggest that the Colombian has additional information that could compromise several other politicians who breathed when she fled.

The circumstance could hardly be more laughable, but it could still lead to a change in the relationship between the two countries.

Of all the countries, Colombia was the only one that could not completely break relations with Venezuela: because of the porous nature of their more than 2,000 kilometers of their common border, because of the millions of migrants that the countries share (both Venezuelans in Colombia and Colombians in Venezuela), because of the armed groups that take advantage of the lack of coordination between the governments to go back and forth, and because of the commercial ties that unite the two countries simply because of their proximity.

According to the Colombian magazine Semana, the lack of communication between the Colombian and Venezuelan governments is greater than that which existed between the United States and the Soviet Union during the harshest periods of the Cold War.

Regardless of the opinion one may have concerning Nicolás Maduro and his regime, the truth is that he still has the support of the Venezuelan military, he controls the country and Aida Merlano has been imprisoned by his government, so it seems that a new episode in the history of the relationship between the two countries is about to be written.

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