The news that President Joe Biden sent a delegation to meet socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro took Venezuelans by surprise.

The possibility of Venezuela once again selling oil to the United States and America easing sanctions against the Maduro regime triggered a wide array of different opinions across the Venezuelan political spectrum.

While the Biden administration has said that it won’t import Venezuelan oil “at this time” – following outrage from Venezuelan-Americans and other anti-socialist Hispanics at home – Venezuelans have much reason to remain skeptical about that statement. Throughout the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, Biden was sold to the Venezuelans as a tough leader who would promote and increase sanctions against the Maduro regime. Democrats assured voters Biden would not negotiate with Maduro at all. Sending a delegation to Venezuela to discuss the possibility of easing sanctions and acquiring oil from the Maduro regime paints a different picture of what was promised.

Oil revenue is a fundamental instrument of the Venezuelan socialist regime. Declaring that Venezuelan oil “belongs to its people” has been one of the key narrative elements employed throughout these past two decades — yet, the Venezuelan people have never reaped much from it and saw little to none of the fruits of the oil bonanza of the late 2000s beyond the handouts of the Revolution. The majority of the profits simply vanished or were used by the socialist regime to further spread ideological influence throughout the region and beyond.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - NOVEMBER 16: Participantes de la marcha convocada por la oposición recorren las calles de la zona de ElRosal en Caracas Venezuelan opposition leader Juan GuaidÛ, recognized by many members of the international community as the country's rightful interim ruler, speaks during rally so-called "Wake up Venezuela" at Plaza Jose Marti to boost pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to resign on November 16, 2019 in Caracas, Venezuela. Last night an unidentified group of armed people dressing military uniforms broke into the headquarters of Juan Guaido's party Voluntad Popular. Guaido's call for renewed protests came as political turmoil affect countries across the region forcing leaders into concessions and even contributing to Evo Morales resignation under pressure. Guaido is willing to bring new energy as frustration grew after inability to remove Maduro from Power. (Photo by Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images)

Participants in the march organized by the opposition pass the streets of the El Rosal neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, on November 16, 2019. (Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images)

Maduro, who has been selling Venezuelan oil to Russia following the start of the U.S. sanctions, has much to gain from selling America oil – and little to lose. The United States does not officially recognize Maduro as the president of Venezuela, so this would give him a degree of legitimacy in return. As Venezuela has accrued a huge debt with Russia, any payment from America would end up in Russian pockets — the deal would simply add a middleman to the equation.

Maduro, who confirmed that the meeting with a delegation of the Biden administration took place while not making mention of any potential oil deal, classified the two-hour meeting as “respectful, cordial, and diplomatic.”

“It seemed very important to be able to discuss topics of maximum interest to Venezuela face to face,” Maduro stated.

Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s legitimate but useless president, denounced the move, urging oil companies to not “trade one dictator for another.” According to Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó’s ambassador to the United States, the Biden Administration did not inform the interim Venezuelan government of its meeting with the Maduro regime until the delegation was already in Venezuela.

In an interview given to CNN en Español, conservative opposition party leader María Corina Machado also questioned Biden over the meeting of the U.S delegation with Maduro, deeming the approach between the U.S. and Venezuela “incomprehensible.”

Venezuelan opposition ex-congresswoman Maria Corina Machado delivers a press conference in Caracas on June 29, 2018. - Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado denied Friday being involved in an alleged military plot to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. (Photo by Federico PARRA / AFP) (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP via Getty Images)

Venezuelan opposition ex-congresswoman Maria Corina Machado delivers a press conference in Caracas on June 29, 2018. (FEDERICO PARRA/AFP via Getty Images)

“Obviously, Russia is aware of everything Maduro offers and says,” Machado stated. “Far from weakening Putin, this approach to Maduro strengthens him, and also sends a terrible message now that, you talked to me about sanctions, because what it says to the world is that tyrants who have energy can commit any crime and they will not be sanctioned.”

The meeting also prompted a backlash among the die-hard leftists in Venezuela. A group of self-stylized “dissident chavistas,” composed of former members and allies of the socialist regime, denounced the meeting.

This group interpreted the move as a betrayal of the “Legacy of Chávez.” In Venezuelan socialist rhetoric, Hugo Chávez has been posthumously elevated to the position of “Supreme and Eternal Commander of the Revolution” and his rule has acquired an air of religious mythology to it. Extreme chavistas see any meeting and hypothetical sale of oil to the United States as undermining Chávez’s legacy of hating America and a sign that Maduro is turning “rightward.”

Despite the constant belligerence of Hugo Chávez towards America and all of his “anti-imperialist” rhetoric, Venezuela continued to export oil to the United States all throughout his rule. Venezuela sold oil to the United States under Maduro’s rule up to 2019, when sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA blocked the purchase of Venezuelan oil.

In contrast to the objections, some members of the leftist self-proclaimed “opposition” took to the news of a meeting favorably. Coexistence with the regime continues to be their priority, and these latest developments left some more evidence of it. Failed perennial presidential candidate and “opposition” leader Henrique Capriles Radonski is among those pushing to end the sanctions against the Maduro regime. Guaidó chastised Capriles for his statements calling for an end of the sanctions against the Maduro regime.

“Anything that means that this country can recover economically — that’s good. If the economy recovers, the Venezuelans recover, not the Government,” Capriles stated in a radio interview. “If the United States agrees that Venezuela enters the Western oil market, it benefits them and also us. It means that the country will have more income than it does not have today.”

Some have, reportedly, begun to quietly prepare for American cash. Chevron has allegedly begun to study the hypothetical scenario of easing sanctions to take control of its joint ventures in Venezuela, reportedly going as far as to begin preparations so that its workers can obtain Venezuelan visas in Aruba.

Venezuela’s oil production has plummeted to all-time lows after years of gross mismanagement and socialist ruin. As of February of 2022, Venezuela’s oil production is estimated to be around 680,000 barrels per day, still far from the approximately 3 million barrels per day it produced in 2013. As such, Venezuelans continue to face erratic and unpredictable gasoline shortages.

Currently, Venezuelans have to buy oil through two methods. The first one is heavily subsidized and rationed by the regime through its Fatherland System, and is set at 0.10 Bolivars per liter (roughly $0.02), but it’s hard to find and it involves long lines.

The other, colloquially known as ‘international price’ gasoline, is set at $0.5 per liter ($1.89 per gallon), while substantially cheaper than the current oil prices in the United States, one has to keep in mind the severely reduced income levels of Venezuela, where the monthly minimum wage is roughly equivalent to $30 per month.

A potential reinstatement of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Maduro regime would bring some modicum of benefit to those in Venezuela that require visa or Consular services, as the U.S. Embassy in Caracas has been shut down since 2019 and all U.S. embassies in the region remain severely backlogged following the Chinese Coronavirus lockdowns — but this is something that should be weighed against the fact that by doing so, it would tacitly recognize Maduro as legitimate and complicate America’s recognition of Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

While I’m not an American citizen, I do have plenty of American friends currently suffering through growing Bidenflation and steep gas prices. Having gone through both inflation and gasoline availability problems throughout the past years of my life automatically makes me sympathize with Americans that are struggling with these two problems.

At the end of the day, any deal between the Biden administration and Maduro with regards to oil would certainly benefit neither the American nor Venezuelan people. The biggest winner of the deal would be Maduro himself.

No comments:

Post a Comment