Underlying the dramatic foreign policy shift introduced by President Alberto Fernández since taking office, the national government today withdrew the "special mission" status granted to the envoy representing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó in Argentina.
Sources inside the Foreign Ministry confirmed to the Noticias Argentinas news agency on Tuesday that Elisa Trotta Gamus had been informed of the decision via "a formal note."
They confirmed to the agency that the envoy was "under the special mission format granted by the previous administration," and was "not a formal ambassador for Venezuela."
"I am writing to you for the purpose of informing you that as of the day of the date [of this letter] your special mission in the Argentine Republic and its functions within the framework is terminated," the note read, Clarín reported Tuesday.
Argentina, which already had a diplomatic mission representing the government of President Nicolás Maduro, recognised Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president last year. But the arrival of President Alberto Fernández has shifted Argentina's foreign policy outlook.
Guaidó named Trotta Gamus, a lawyer, diplomat and human rights activist, as his official ambassador last year. She was immediately recognised by former president Mauricio Macri as Venezuela's diplomatic representative in Argentina, with the Cambiemos leader hosting her on multiple occasions at the Casa Rosada. In April, foreign minister Jorge Faurie formally recognised Trotta Gamus as a "full" ambassador, granting her diplomatic credentials, immunity and security.
A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Trotta Gamus had been sent "a formal note" bearing the signature of Mariángeles Bellusci, the Foreign Ministry's national director of Ceremonies. They added that "given the persistence in the media of presenting her as ambassador, we consider it appropriate to report that [the official] is not."
Later, a spokesperson Reuters that "we do not recognise Guaido as president, but as a leader of the opposition, and based on that, we consider that there is no special representation mission," a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said.
Guaidó, who a year ago declared himself acting president in a challenge to socialist leader Nicolás Maduro, leads the opposition. The Voluntad Popular ("Popular Will") has led the National Assembly for the last year and used that role to declare himself acting president on January 23, 2019 after the National Assembly had branded Maduro a "usurper." His declaration has been recognised by more than 50 countries, including the United States.
Argentina’s new government is trying to walk a fine line on its policy toward Venezuela, distancing itself from the Lima Group that sees Maduro as a dictator, while at the some time condemning his assault on the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
The decision didn’t surprise Guaidó.
“Nothing that we didn’t expect, we knew the country’s ‘neutral’ position,” said Guaidó. “We still hope that Argentina supports freedom and democracy.”
As head of a left-leaning Peronist coalition, Alberto Fernández has signalled he is realigning the country’s foreign policy; in part by granting asylum to former Bolivian president Evo Morales and engaging with Maduro’s officials during his inauguration last month. At the same time, moving too close to a regime the Donald Trump administration is trying to remove may jeopardise US support in key economic negotiations for Argentina.
Trotta Gamus, who was born in Caracas in 1982, is the daughter of Alberto Trotta, an Argentine lawyer who sought exile in Venezuela in 1975 before the military dictatorship took power.
In a statement shared with Reuters, she said she respected President Fernández’s decision to remove her credentials and hoped Argentina would continue to denounce human rights violations in Venezuela.
"We respect the sovereign decisions of Argentina. We are open to all kinds of conversations and dialogues that may arise with the Argentine Government with the objective of contributing to the recovery of democracy in Venezuela," the statement said.
The move is another twist in Fernandez’s balancing act on Venezuela policy, which could hold major implications for Argentina’s relationship with the US and its record US$56-billion IMF agreement.