The dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, is regaining ground in the international community and consolidating his power despite the fact that his country is experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis in history. For years, Maduro was isolated from the world: the majority of democratic countries did not recognize him as president of the Republic after elections were held that did not have the necessary guarantees. But the Government of Joe Biden has been softening the pressure that the United States promoted against the dictatorship.
This Monday two events were recorded that give greater stability to the dictator and his allies. Two US officials reported that the Democratic government will ease sanctions if Maduro guarantees free, transparent and internationally monitored presidential elections in 2024. At the same time, it was learned that the international community will accompany a new round of talks between the regime and part of the opposition.
"Two people familiar with the talks told The Washington Post that sanctions relief will be announced after the Maduro regime and the Venezuelan opposition sign an agreement during a meeting in Barbados on Tuesday," said the report by the news outlet El Nacional.
But this strategy is not new. In Venezuela, at least 20 dialogues have been held between the dictatorship and the opposition without reaching agreements. The dictator takes advantage of that time to gain legitimacy and then hits the negotiating table after getting what he wanted. In fact, according to El Nacional, Maduro assumes that there is a consensus to lift the sanctions. However, in the regime there is still no talk of changes to achieve democratic elections. On the contrary, what there is is a constant threat about the possibility of not allowing the opposition primary election that is scheduled to take place this Sunday.
The politics of pressure on the dictator
The ignorance and pressure against the dictator intensified thanks to the support that the United States Government gave to the Venezuelan opposition during the Administration of Republican Donald Trump. On January 23, 2019, Trump recognized Juan Guaidó, president of the Venezuelan Parliament, as interim president of Venezuela. The decision of the United States was protected under article 233 of the Constitution of the Republic of Venezuela, which establishes that the president of the National Assembly assumes the functions in the event of absolute failure in the Executive.
President @realDonaldTrump has officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.
— The White House 45 Archived (@WhiteHouse45) January 23, 2019
.@AsambleaVE remains Venezuela’s only valid democratically elected body. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice has no more legitimacy than does #Maduro. We support the call for all Venezuelans to work together peacefully to restore constitutional government and democracy in #Venezuela.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 22, 2019
Donald Trump's commitment to Venezuela
From that moment, Trump's foreign policy to promote the freedom of Venezuela was tougher. He increased sanctions against officials of the Chavista regime and US authorities took important steps to formally accuse several members of the Venezuelan dictatorship of drug trafficking.
El Departamento de Justicia de EEUU ofrece recompensa de $15 millones por la captura de Maduro y por la captura del resto de los implicados en la red de narcotráfico, como Diosdado Cabello, ofrecen $10 millones. #VIVOplay: https://t.co/1QcPa5TS5U pic.twitter.com/nLuy7a1WZU
— VIVOplay (@vivoplaynet) March 26, 2020
The sanctions included the freezing of the officials' accounts and assets. As well as the prohibition of transactions, confiscation of assets, arms embargoes and travel bans. The United States also applied additional sanctions to the oil, gold, mining and banking industries.
La Oficina de Control de Activos Extranjeros del Departamento del Tesoro de Estados Unidos incluyó hoy en su lista de sanciones a cinco personas clave que han contribuido a esfuerzos del régimen ilegítimo de Maduro para socavar la democracia en Venezuela: https://t.co/ytUPEdp7zQ
— USA en Español (@USAenEspanol) September 23, 2020
In parallel with these accusations, progress was also made in the investigation by the International Criminal Court against the regime for violation of human rights. Hundreds of complaints against the Chavista chain of command led to Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru referring the situation in Venezuela to the Courts.
La Corte Penal Internacional CPI encontró "fundamentos razonables" para creer que las fuerzas de seguridad del gobierno de Nicolás Maduro perpetraron crímenes de lesa humanidad en Venezuela, como torturas y abusos sexuales. /a pic.twitter.com/3e2LaXcqkP@dw_espanol
— Reporte Ya (@ReporteYa) December 15, 2020
The pressure weakened the dictatorship. Opposition leaders insisted that this United States policy towards the Venezuelan regime should be maintained until a political agreement was reached that would lead to freedom.
For example, Venezuelan leader María Corina Machado explained, in conversation with El Nacional, that the sanctions were a demonstration that the democratic world is committed to political change in Venezuela. She said these actions demonstrated the determination of the United States to contribute to the restoration of democracy.
“President Trump's decision is correct and timely. Its impact is very great and contributes to the end of tyranny. It has the support of the majority of Venezuelans. It is a demonstration that the United States is committed to advancing on the path of force to liberate Venezuela,” Machado stated.
However, the strategy changed when Joe Biden arrived at the White House. The Democratic Government not only proposed a policy of dialogue from the beginning, but with its actions it allowed the regime to return to the international stage.
A demonstration of this was the presence of Delcy Rodríguez, vice president of Venezuela, at the Regional Summit between the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. She was received with kisses and hugs by different presidents, but she also met with leaders to promote the end of the sanctions.
🇪🇸 Pedro Sánchez recibe a Delcy Rodríguez en la apertura de la Cumbre UE - CELAC.
📌 También fue recibida por Ursula von der Leyen, presidenta de la Comisión Europea y Charles Michel, presidente del Consejo Europeo 🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/b5CRxZz4jf
— 𝙋𝙤𝙡𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙘𝙖 (@polianalitica) July 17, 2023
Juan González, special assistant to Biden and principal director of the Security Council for the Western Hemisphere, announced that the policy of sanctions against officials who violate rights “will not change the status quo.” “Here what we are trying to create are incentives for them to take a different route; but the window is one that will close eventually. And it would be unfortunate because last year - around a million Venezuelans - left that country due to the political, economic and security situations," González said in an interview for the Voz de América media.
En entrevista con la Voz de América, Juan González, asistente especial del presidente Joe Biden, dijo que aunque la política hacia Venezuela “sigue igual”, no existe “una ventana indefinida”. pic.twitter.com/SY03en74qf
— Voz de América (@VozdeAmerica) July 21, 2023
But Biden's position is something that had already been announced. Upon assuming office as president of the United States, he assured that he would opt for dialogue to confront the Venezuelan crisis. In fact, US officials traveled to Caracas more than a year ago to meet with the Maduro regime.
SCOOP: Senior BIDEN administration officials are traveling to Venezuela today to meet with MADURO's regime.
It's part of an effort to drive a wedge between Venezuela & Russia, & is the highest-level visit by US officials to Caracas in years. https://t.co/LSu8eclb8M
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) March 5, 2022
— VPItv (@VPITV) September 22, 2022
Another fact that demonstrated the shift in United States policy to address the Venezuelan crisis was the release of the two nephews of Cilia Flores, Maduro's wife, detained in the United States for drug trafficking crimes. In exchange, the dictator released seven Americans, including five former Citgo executives, detained in Venezuela since 2017.
El gobierno de Venezuela liberó a 7 prisioneros estadounidenses a cambio de la liberación de dos sobrinos de la esposa de Nicolás Maduro, Cilia Flores, quienes permanecieron encarcelados en Estados Unidos tras ser condenados por narcotráfico. ► https://t.co/h8cwFzmqLU pic.twitter.com/7I3vPQdwyi
— NTN24 (@NTN24) October 2, 2022
The Biden Administration insists that these decisions were made in an attempt to achieve the return of democracy in the South American country through negotiation. But it has not borne fruit. Maduro seems to have a more stable and confident dictatorship with the beginning of international recognition, while the Venezuelan crisis deepens, which has caused the departure of more than seven million Venezuelans; according to data from the Coordination, Integrity and Migrants Platform of Venezuela.
Precisely, the migration crisis that has been generated in the region is a demonstration that the situation in Venezuela has not improved. This is explained by David Smolansky, former commissioner of the OAS General Secretariat for the Venezuelan migrant and refugee crisis. "1,700 people a day do not leave a country that is fixed. Our office has collected at least 700 testimonies from victims of the dictatorship and there is one constant: people continue to flee due to food shortages, medicine shortages, insecurity, systematic violations of human rights, threats, persecution and economic collapse," Smolansky explained in a conversation with El Nacional.
Furthermore, he maintains that the crisis in Venezuela will only be resolved with the departure of Nicolás Maduro from power. "This is a human landslide that has a very clear cause, which is an illegitimate regime, which is responsible for the complex humanitarian emergency. The regime has as a state policy the violation of human rights, it is responsible for the lack of light, there is no water, it´s responsible for the economic collapse and, in addition, he made a pact with the underworld so that Venezuela is one of the most violent countries in the world," said the leader.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Administration continues to “support any conversation that exists between the unitary platform and the de facto Government” to ensure a return to the dialogue table.