Biden - Maduro

Biden—Maduro Talks: What We Know So Far

As Biden seeks to isolate Russia for its crimes in Ukraine, he sends a “secret” delegation to Venezuela to negotiate with dictator Nicolás Maduro

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Joe Biden’s administration began meetings with the regime of Nicolás Maduro. While seeking to isolate Russia for its crimes in Ukraine, the president may be getting closer to one of Putin’s main allies in Latin America.

What we know about the trip of U.S. officials to Venezuela

The Democratic administration confirmed this Monday, March 7, that a delegation was in the South American country to address “a range of issues,” among them, “energy security” in the face of Ukraine’s invasion.

According to a New York Times unidentified source, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted the United States to pay more attention to President Vladimir Putin’s allies in Latin America, which Washington believes could become security threats if the confrontation with Russia deepens.

The newspaper, which was the first to report the meetings, explains that the visit to Caracas by senior State Department and White House officials responds to Washington’s alleged interest in being able to replace part of the oil it currently buys from Russia.

Biden is examining the reduction of Russian oil imports after the invasion in Ukraine, so he would be looking for alternatives so as not to affect the global supply. However, it would be the beginning of negotiations with a tyranny that the United States has already sanctioned by prohibiting it from doing business with any American entity or organization.

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It is not yet clear what the U.S. is looking for with Venezuela and what kind of agreements could be reached. Nicolás Maduro, the dictator of the South American country, is one of the most wanted men by the U.S., for whom they have offered up to $15 million for his capture.

Is the United States considering easing sanctions?

The United States broke diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 2019, and imposed a battery of sanctions for its constant violations of human rights. The measures include an embargo in force since April 2019 that prevents Venezuela from trading its crude oil —which represented 96 % of the country’s income— in the American market.

Economist Francisco Monaldi published on his Twitter a graph showing how after the sanctions, Russia took a good part of the market Venezuela had in the United States.

In an interview with Americas Quarterly, Monaldi explained that redirecting Venezuelan oil exports to the United States could help alleviate the difficulties faced by American refineries in replacing current Russian imports.

Mariano De Alba, a specialist in international law, explained that “rising oil prices were the push for face-to-face talks between senior U.S. officials and the Maduro regime.”

“Maduro sees it viable for the United States to at least begin to relax sanctions, opening the possibility of substantially increasing revenues. But as it will necessarily be a gradual process, its development is uncertain and with risks. Without prudence and more concessions, it is unlikely to advance,” said De Alba.

What did the Venezuelan opposition say about the visit?

The interim government headed by Juan Guaidó confirmed the visit of the American delegation. It indicated that it will provide more information “after achieving coordination work” in response to “reasons of national interest and security” of the United States.

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