Senior US Officials Visit Venezuela to Try to Split Russia Off From Latin American Allies: Report
© Sputnik / Alexei DruzhininRussian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, November 23, 2015
© Sputnik / Alexei Druzhinin/
Washington and Caracas have had no formal diplomatic relations since January 2019 –when the US attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Nicolas Maduro and slapped crushing sanctions on the Latin American nation.
Senior US State Department and White House officials have traveled to Caracas to meet with Venezuelan officials as part of a campaign to try to split Russia off from its allies in Latin America, the New York Times has reported, citing persons said to be familiar with the matter.
Current and former officials told the newspaper that Washington considers Russia’s partners in Latin America a potential “security threat,” with Caracas lobbied to move away from Moscow’s orbit in exchange for the resumption of purchases of Venezuelan crude oil, which has faced a years-long US-led blockade.
NYT’s sources did not clarify how long the US delegation would stay in the Venezuelan capital, or who they would meet during their trip. However, former US officials and conservative media personalities called on Washington to reinvigorate its ties with Caracas in an attempt to recoup the loss of Russian oil in the US energy balance.
World oil prices have jumped dramatically over the past week amid the financial blowback caused by Western sanctions against Russia over its military operation in Ukraine, topping $110 per barrel of WTI crude, and $115 a barrel for Brent crude.
Venezuela has the largest known reserves of oil in the world, but has been forced to seek assistance from its Iranian, Russian and Chinese allies amid a US-led campaign of crippling sanctions on the nation’s ability to export its black gold.
The US introduced crushing sanctions against Caracas in January 2019 after opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself the country’s “interim president.” Along with efforts to cripple Venezuela’s energy exports, the US and its allies have seized tens of billions of dollars in assets belonging to the Venezuelan state, oil giant PDVSA and its US subsidiary CITGO. Part of these assets were transferred to Guaido and his allies and have subsequently disappeared, sparking allegations from the Maduro government that this money has been embezzled.
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In addition to economic pressure, Venezuela’s authorities have faced direct security threats from the US. In May 2020, a group of Colombia-based mercenaries attempted to land in Venezuela by sea, kidnap President Maduro, and take him to the US to face prosecution on charges that he was a secret drug baron. The plot collapsed and eight mercenaries were killed, with over a dozen more captured, among them two US nationals. The brazen plot was masterminded by a Florida-based private security company.
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Venezuela has rejected the US and European position on the Russian military operation in Ukraine, blaming Washington and NATO for the crisis. “We are not seduced by lies repeated a thousand times. We know that [Vladimir] Putin is defending the Russian people’s right to peace and dignity,” Maduro said in an address last week. “We have been attentive to the events in Russia and Ukraine. We observe how NATO intends to end Russia and a multipolar world, which is already a reality,” he added.
Last week, Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations Samuel Moncada called for a “peaceful settlement of any dispute which might exist in the Eastern European region,” and pointed to Caracas’ support in 2015 of UN Resolution 2202 on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements on Donbass peace.
“Sadly, these agreements were wasted after seven years of violations within Ukraine which widened the national divide and increased the suffering of the civilian population. The violent domestic crisis was heightened by another factor – the growing outside pressure of the NATO military bloc toward Ukraine itself, with the destructive effect on security assurances for all, in particular the Russian Federation, and which are the basis for security architecture in Europe,” Moncada said.