Venezuelan stability and development depends on defeating U.S. aggressiveness and its less-touted but clear determination to weaken Bolivarianism.
Multipolarity, the ace that Hugo Chávez tossed onto the table early on, continues to be Venezuela’s card in a gamble, not only for its survival as a victim of an undeclared war waged by the U.S., but also in pursuit of world justice.
In the midst of economic and financial tensions that predict new global crises and the hardening of alternative poles of power in Washington, this gamble seems even more necessary and promising.
These reasons argue for the importance of President Nicolás Maduro’s visit this week to Saudi Arabia, a powerful nation with which new agreements have made bilateral relations stronger — even though it is “at the other end” of the world. Also of importance was his recent presence at the inauguration of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reelected president of Turkey, a nation that in recent years has shown determination and strength as a contributor to a greater balance against the traditional hegemonic power — through its stance in halting the expansion of NATO, a military bloc of which it is a member, and through its increasingly strong ties with nations under siege, such as Venezuela.
Nevertheless — and despite the transcendence for Caracas of the multipolarity that Chavez had seen to be essential — the sine qua non of Venezuelan stability and development depends, instead, on defeating the aggressiveness of the U.S. and its lesser-trumpeted but clearly maintained determination to eliminate the power of Bolivarianism.
More than 900 punitive measures, including the freezing of its money abroad, translate to damages amounting to $23.2 billion, the lack of which has resulted in the deterioration of the population’s quality of life. This is a reality of which right-leaning snipers should be aware.
The loosening of this economic and financial siege seemed somewhat closer after the international conference convened by Colombian President Gustavo Petro in April [in Bogota], which concluded with a brief, final appeal that was concise and clear enough to be considered: that $3 billion of the total $20 billion spuriously seized by Washington from Caracas and placed in the hands of the opposition would be returned; that a social fund agreed upon in November 2022 would be funded by the [Venezuelan] government and the opposition; and that, above all, sanctions would be lifted.
In addition, the Venezuelan government would effectively communicate the electoral schedule for next year’s presidential elections with the aim of increased participation. In retrospect, perhaps none of this was as surprising as the fact that Venezuela was not represented at the meeting, which was well-attended by some 20 countries, including three officials of Joe Biden’s administration.
The [U.S.] delegation was led by Jon Finer, Deputy National Security Advisor to the president, Special Advisor for the Americas Christopher Dodd and Director of the National Security Council for Western Hemisphere Affairs Juan Gonzalez, who both agreed with the statements and agreed to convey them to Biden. The U.S. response, however, was disappointing for those who expected real change from Washington.
Less than 10 days later, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control — after lengthy litigation aimed not only to sequester Citgo, but to steal it — authorized the liquidation of its assets, placing the oil company under complete control of the farcical leaders of the National Assembly. They were elected in 2015, have long since been defunct, yet they were authorized to act on behalf of Venezuela in all matters concerning Citgo; its illegal auction was anticipated. Caracas denounced the measure as robbery. Observers and the Bolivarian executive himself considered it to be an angry response — a door slammed shut — to the meeting in Bogota.
Meanwhile, nothing has been said about the delivery of the money for the social fund agreed upon by the government and its opponents during their last meeting.
The waiting period continues: The White House has not moved in returning the remainder of the Venezuelan funds it had delivered to a sector of the opposition, nor has it relaxed punitive measures.
Dialogue between the right wing of the Democratic Unity Platform and the Venezuelan government continues to be stalled, while Caracas’ unheeded demand for the release of businessman Alex Saab, extradited and illegally imprisoned in the U.S., looms over the possibility of resuming talks.
Although a meeting of South American presidents in Brasilia failed to succeed in launching the anticipated renewal of the Union of South American Nations, it did reestablish dialogue among leaders of that region and was dismissive of the speeches of two presidents who adhered to the White House’s “narrative” regarding Venezuela.
There is no room for deviation in one’s direction, not even in diplomacy. Taking advantage of that gathering of South American presidents, Maduro announced an upcoming meeting with foreign ministers participating in the international conference to be held in Colombia. According to the Venezuelan president, those ministers “will bring me a message” — he did not say when. Although it will surely not be official or public, such a meeting and the statements emanating from it could be important and could clarify whether or not it is possible to expect real and ostensible changes from the Biden administration in its policy toward Caracas.
It is true that sending two officials from his administration to Miraflores last year to manage licensing — apparently directly — opened a loophole in sanctions a few weeks later: Repsol of Spain, Eni of Italy and Chevron of the U.S. were temporarily allowed to operate with Venezuelan crude.
That step, resulting from the severe shake-up of the oil market caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the U.S. demand for black gold, has not been followed by more.
In any case, in recent days “authoritative” voices speaking about Venezuela from Washington seem to emphasize the adoption of firm and explicit positions on that issue — a performance that, notwithstanding, could now be subject to the visible ups and downs that will precede the U.S. presidential race of 2024. And the competition has started early.
Whatever the White House’s attitude toward Venezuela may or may not mean for the campaign, Gonzalez, Biden’s adviser for the Western Hemisphere, has reiterated the same weak fallacies in justifying economic aggression. In declarations presented to the right-leaning news channel NTN24, Gonzalez denied (!) that the U.S. is “an actor” in the Venezuelan scenario and qualified his country as “a support” for its citizens “who want democracy,” thus endorsing their [conservative] position.*
His words reiterate the interfering, blackmailing stance from the U.S. to which we have become accustomed: “The president,” said the U.S. official, referring to Biden, “has made it clear that we support a negotiated progress. … We are willing to lift the pressure if there is progress, but we will re-impose it if there is no progress or if there is a setback.”* In the midst of the recovering and growing recognition of Maduro’s government, stolen in the glory days of the failed Juan Guaidó, that position could be seen as more evidence of the recalcitrant, albeit underhanded, attitude of the Biden administration.
Meanwhile, the opposition — the United Democratic Platform — is fully engaged in preparing for the primaries with a view to the presidential elections and has been denounced by Bolivarian authorities for using money usurped from the country — delivered for its use by an off-stage actor, the main protagonist in this tragedy.
*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, this quoted passage could not be independently verified.