Allegedly, in the different rounds of "secret" negotiations between Jorge Rodriguez and Special Assistant to President Biden and National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez, free and fair elections was one of the main points. The topic of elections has also been central to talks between Nicolas Maduro's regime and the opposition with the participation of the U.S. State Department. Since 1999, there has been countless agreements and pacts that chavismo has entered and breached. That has been a constant. In all negotiations, chavismo applies the Venezuelan maxim "cómo quedo yo ahí?", that is "what's in it for me?" The answer to that is not free and fair elections.
Free and fair elections will never take place under chavismo for one simple, but powerful and unavoidable reason: jail. Every senior member of Maduro's criminal government knows that should free and fair elections result in a different administration taking away their immunity, what will follow is loss of freedom and stolen proceeds, loss of control, relentless lawfare and adverse court sentences. The minute a truly democratic government forms in Venezuela, there will only be a handful of jurisdictions on earth (none of which appealing) where chavista thugs will be able to escape to. That is what informs Maduro's position.
Sanctions were lifted after the Barbados agreeement. Alex Saab was pardoned following Gonzalez & Rodriguez talks. Maduro got exactly what he wanted, but did the Venezuelan people get something? Have their lives and prospects improved in any way in the past few months?
Maduro was never going to submit to something that would endanger his "what's in it for me?" calculation. Venezuela and its people do not matter. More oil income is not something that keeps Maduro up at night. Negotiators have to realise once and for all that people's wellbeing isn't an argument that registers with Maduro & co. They simply can not care less. Sanctions aren't a concern either, there's plenty of traders and nations eager and willing to trade with PDVSA.
That which he did not have -temporary sanctions relief to build war chest for coming elections and Alex Saab- he got. Now what? Maduro is like that person that has everything: what do you give to someone like that? Democracy? Free and fair elections, really? The U.S. administrations of Trump and Biden gave Maduro exactly what he wanted: more control and therefore more power. Trump and Biden solidified Maduro's grip. Trading with Chevron, Repsol, ENI, Shell, Trinidad and others has been facilitated. Maduro's already formidable position has been strengthened in real terms and time. Venezuela's completely subservient Supreme Court is not going to rule against him. The Electoral Council's Head who ilegally barred Maria Corina Machado in the past is not going to let her run. And the army of the world's second most corrupt country? Well, drug trafficking still brings billions in cash.
Delcy and Jorge Rodriguez are resentment personified. The loss of their criminal father fueled a life of fanatical indoctrination at the hands of their mother, not dissimilar to what fundamentalist terrorists exhibit. While Jorge (on learning of State Department's reimposition of sanctions) told Yankees to fuck off while speaking in Venezuela's Congress, his little sister showed how much she truly cares about plight of Venezuelans saying repatriation flights from America would be suspended from February 13th. Given their uninterrupted ascent to the top positions, network and the power they collectively wield, entertaining notions that will see them subjected to criminal probes and jail is not realistic.
Chavismo's radicalism has to be seen like that of the Russia - Ukraine conflict. Taking a word from Maduro, or the Rodriguez siblings, is like taking Putin or Sergei Lavrov at face value. A report about how ineffective sanctions have been, in its ultimate goal of unseating Maduro, was recently published. But the counter argument is just as valid: sanctions relief does not work either.