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Venezuela Jeopardizes Relations With the United States

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Jul 12, 2013, 10:42 am

Does the current Venezuelan government have a real interest in saving the diplomatic ties with the US government? The question has elevated importance given that President Nicolás Maduro has offered asylum to former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, without formal request from Snowden, and given Maduro’s ongoing levels of insults and attacks towards the Obama administration during the past few days.

Within aggressive remarks, Maduro asked, “Who is the rapist or the terrorist, a young 29-year-old man who tells the truth or the government of the United States that protects Luis Posada Carriles whose extradition is requested by our government?” Also, in regards to the incident suffered by president Evo Morales, who had to make a thirteen-hour stop in Vienna after several European nations denied flight permission over suspicions that Snowden was in the plane, Maduro said that the happenings were indeed provoked by “the imperialistic madness of the elite that governs the United States.”

Just a month ago, on June 5, current Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua petitioned and was granted a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sideline of a session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in Guatemala. During this casual meeting, Maduro’s government committed to starting the talks between both countries and evaluating the chances of strengthening diplomatic representation and possibly reaching the appointment of ambassadors in Washington and Caracas, lacking since 2010. Minister Jaua described the meeting as “cordial” and “sincere” holding that both governments coincided in their intentions of having good bilateral relations.

But it is actually Nicolás Maduro and the minister themselves who are jeopardizing those intentions and relations that without a doubt are important to both nations but especially for Venezuela. In fact, Maduro’s government needs the formal acknowledgement and legitimacy of the Obama administration and the international community today more than ever, after the presidential elections this past April were rejected by the Venezuelan opposition and questioned by international observers such as The Carter Center.

Moreover, Maduro needs to disregard his anti-American ideals and maintain the economic and commercial ties with its first partner given the critical socioeconomic situation that our country is currently undergoing. The United States buys from Venezuela over 1.2 million barrels daily paying — contrary to the majority of the other Venezuelan clients — its full market price in dollars. Also, the United States sells Venezuela millions of barrels of refined products such as gasoline, heavy fuel oils, liquefied petroleum gas and additives. According to the Venezuelan-American Chamber of Trade and Industry (VenAmCham) “the oil imports (from USA to Venezuela) during the first quarter of 2013 reached a total of US$877 million being 123.32 percent higher than the imports registered during the same period of 2012 when the imports reached US$392 million.”

The fact that the new chavista government upholds the anti imperialistic ideals over the economic and political interests of the current and historical relations of our nation with the United States is baffling when using normal democratic logic. It is the same position held by the fourteen years of government of Hugo Chavez and that has nurtured the leftist “revolutions” of Latin America and the world. Without a doubt, socialist wannabes use the seductive wrath of anti imperialism to invoke an enemy and gain the people’s attention.

If the Venezuelan asylum is indeed accepted before any other country’s proposal, the process of stabilizing diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the US would freeze again — due to another obstacle generated by Venezuelan officials. It would also stop the negotiation of a proposed business agenda discussed by the recently appointed business representative of Venezuela Calixto Ortega, and the Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson. Such an agenda should deliver – if there are indeed honest intentions, especially from Maduro’s administration – real benefits to the citizens of Venezuela and the United States. It could mean, for example, the reopening of the Venezuelan Consulate in Miami and a true energy, military, and intelligence cooperation between the nations in order to fight common threats such as drug trafficking and organized crime.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.