White House delegation met with representatives of the Maduro regime in Venezuela

File image of the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. EFE/File (Miguel Gutierrez/)

A delegation of United States officials traveled to Venezuela over the weekend to meet with the Nicolás Maduro regime and issues related to energy were on the tablethe White House said Monday.

“The purpose of the trip that the administration officials took was to discuss a variety of issues that certainly include energy, energy security,” Joe Biden administration spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Maduro and closed its embassy in Caracas in 2019, after accusing the authoritarian leader of electoral fraud. The Trump administration sanctioned Venezuelan oil exports and the country’s top officials, and also recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela.

Maduro responded to the sanctions by seeking economic and diplomatic help from Russia, as well as from Iran and China. Russian energy companies and banks have been instrumental in allowing Venezuela to continue exporting oil, the country’s largest source of foreign exchange, despite sanctions.

“Now, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused the United States to pay more attention to allies of President Vladimir V. Putin in Latin America.which Washington believes could become security threats if the confrontation with Russia deepens,” according to current and former US officials who spoke with New York Times under condition of anonymity.

“As the Russian economy crumbles, the United States is seizing an opportunity to promote its agenda among Latin American autocracies that could begin to see Putin as an increasingly weak ally,” says the US media.

Illustrative file photo of the PDVSA logo at a company refinery in Willemstad, Curacao April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Illustrative file photo of the PDVSA logo at a company refinery in Willemstad, Curacao April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares (ANDRES MARTINEZ CASARES/)

New York Times details that when the United States and its allies began considering this month the possibility of imposing sanctions on Russian oil and gas exports to punish the country for the devastation caused in Ukraine, prominent voices affiliated with the two main US political parties pointed to Venezuela as a possible substitute.

Republicans have been involved in talks about resuming the oil trade, including Scott Taylor, a former Republican congressman from Virginia who is working with Robert Stryk.a Washington lobbyist who briefly registered to represent the Maduro regime in 2020 and remains in contact with people close to him.

“Taylor said he spoke Friday night with a Venezuelan businessman who noted that the Maduro team was eager to re-engage with the United States. We must seize this opportunity to achieve a diplomatic victory and wedge between Russia and Venezuela,” he said in a statement.

Trish Regan, former host of foxnews and conservative media personality, adds the NYT, also called for an alliance with Venezuela to displace Russian oil from the US market. “Venezuela has the largest source of oil reserves yet, do we give it to the Chinese and the Russians?” she wrote on Twitter on Friday.

It is not clear how long the US delegation, which includes top officials from the State Department and the White House, will stay in Caracas, or with whom the group will meet. Spokespeople for Maduro, the State Department and the National Security Council in Washington did not respond to NYT requests for comment.

Nicholas Maduro
Nicholas Maduro

“If the United States reduces imports of Russian oil, Venezuela could replace part of the lost supplies,” Francisco Monaldi, an expert on Venezuelan energy at Rice University in Houston, told the media.

Maduro appears open to discussing oil deals. “Here is Venezuela’s oil, which is available to anyone who wants to produce it and buy it, whether it’s an investor from Asia, Europe or the United States,” he said in a public address last Thursday.

The American newspaper also recalls that Maduro and other Russian allies in Latin America have begun to distance themselves from the Russian offensive.. In fact, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba abstained or did not vote on the two proposed resolutions at the United Nations this week to condemn Russian aggression.

(With information from AFP)

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