The recent trip by two top U.S. foreign policy officials to Caracas, Venezuela, is an indication of how much the geopolitical balance may shift in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Senior Director of the National Security Council Juan Gonzalez and Director of the Venezuelan Affairs Unit James Story met with Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro and his wife on Saturday – the first time since diplomatic relations. between the two countries broke up in 2019.
The content of the meeting, so far, has focused on the possibility that the White House could lift some of the sanctions it has imposed in recent years on Venezuela’s oil industry to replace imports from China. Russia, which US President Joe Biden. banned earlier today.
Background: Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world – and historically, most of its crude has been exported to US refineries.
Venezuelan Oil: Maduro confirmed Venezuela’s intention to increase crude oil production on Monday, a move that comes as Russia’s oil exports are plummeting due to sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.
“We are ready to resume production. One, two or three million barrels, everything! Everything in the name of peace! ” he say.
The US deal may be easier said than done: Domestic oil production is at almost all-time low after years of mismanagement and lack of maintenance of oil and gas facilities.
Experts say it will take years and billions of dollars of investment to restore oil exports from Venezuela to the way they were before. Francisco Monaldi, director of the Latin American Energy Program at the Baker Institute in Houston. So, if the White House needs a short-term solution to lower the price of gasoline, it cannot come from Venezuela.
Released US citizens: However, the deployment of troops in Venezuela by US officials has yielded some immediate results. Venezuela released at least two US citizens late on Tuesday, with speculation it was done as a “sign of goodwill” from Maduro (and as part of potential sanctions). has not happened yet.
This undated profile photo posted on Twitter on June 18, 2020 by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, shows CITGO oil executives, left to right, Jose Angel Pereira, Gustavo Cardenas , Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Alirio Jose Zambrano, stand outside the Bolivar National Intelligence Service in Caracas, Venezuela.
Gustavo Cárdenas is a US citizen detained in Caracas since 2017 and one of six detained oil executives at US refinery CITGO. Later, Jorge Alberto Fernandez, a Cuban-American citizen detained in Venezuela since February 2021, was released from prison. He’s not one of those so-called “CITGO 6.”
The Caracas trip signals the intention that the White House may be willing to change its relationship with Venezuela in the long term. That’s because Caracas has grown closer to Moscow under Maduro’s rule.
But it’s a high bet: Maduro has abandoned previous negotiations — and if it doesn’t work out, Biden will likely pay a political price.