Due to the war in Ukraine, the United States approaches Venezuela. Is it more convenient for Nicolás Maduro to get closer to Joe Biden or to continue on the side of Vladimir Putin? .
Photos: Adam Schultz, kremlin.ru, Russian Federation
LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández
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Leer en español: Biden o Putin: ¿Qué le conviene más a Nicolás Maduro?
Since 2008, the United States and the West have been punishing Venezuela with sanctions. Initially, there were sanctions to specific characters close to the Chavista government. However, since 2015 and due to the deadly protests in the Caribbean country, the sanctions have increased, even hitting several companies and national money.
Well now, it seems that the war in Ukraine presents an unbeatable opportunity for Nicolás Maduro to restore relations between the United States and Venezuela. Although, this may have consequences on his proximity to Moscow.
A couple of weeks ago, the South American president reiterated his support for Russia and his counterpart, Vladimir Putin. But his rapprochement with the United States poses serious questions for the future of Venezuelan diplomacy.
Why should Maduro choose to get closer to Biden?
A rapprochement with the United States would be beneficial for Chavismo. Being able to negotiate the lifting of sanctions and the possibility of increasing the sale of oil to the superpower would be key to improving the national economy. Venezuelans would see an evident improvement in the current situation, they would be able to access money that is now embargoed or that was delivered to the "Government" of Juan Guaidó.
Likewise, they will also be able to negotiate the freedom of different prisoners, such as the famous Alex Saab, a key businessman in the Chavista scaffolding who was captured in Cavo Verde and today faces trial in the United States.
The United States imported, as of 2021, according to the EIA, 178,550 barrels of oil per day from Russia. This is equivalent to only 3% of total crude oil imports (6 million). Biden seeks more than anything that the price of a barrel does not rise through the roof. US energy security does not appear to be in jeopardy.
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Now, the question is whether Venezuela has enough technology to start producing that amount of oil. According to the data and figures that are handled today, Venezuela only produces 800,000 thousand barrels of oil per day, when before it reached up to 3 million. But, this will gradually increase, so Maduro could see a large cashflow entering the country.
If this situation occurs, the rest of the Latin American countries could again find in Venezuela a great ally and economic partner. A country with money to buy and a region that is willing to sell. However, the main Venezuelan neighbors (Colombia and Brazil), for now, remain in a position of rejection and pressure towards the Maduro government.
However, just as elections are coming in Colombia and Brazil, the US will change presidents in a couple of years. The possibility of a new Republican administration, plus a growing Lobby of Venezuelans and Cubans within the United States, could represent little stability for an agreement between the country and Venezuela unless Maduro and Chavismo also grant several democratic guarantees that we have already seen rejected.
Why should Maduro stay loyal to Russia?
First, because Russia is already an ally of Venezuela. There are several cooperation projects and aid. Russia has backed Nicolás Maduro and his entire government both militarily and economically. If it is true that Russia will now enter a major economic crisis due to the same sanctions that they receive today, Russia has shown loyalty. This loyalty is valued in a country that has been diplomatically isolated and "in an economic war," as Chavismo itself warns.
This implies that regardless of democratic transparency or respect for human rights, Putin and his government have supported Venezuela. Also, because, unlike American democracy in which a future administration could spoil the deal with Maduro, Putin sees himself as a bigger and longer guarantor. It is easy to predict that the Russian leader will remain in power for another long period and this gives stability to the alliance with Venezuela.
Now, it is true that neither Biden nor Maduro are interested in restoring relations100%. As long as the United States slightly lifts the sanctions and Venezuela supplies part of the oil to the northern country, both administrations can see themselves as well served.