EspañolOnce again, the governments of Barack Obama and Nicolás Maduro are coming together in an attempt to restore a diplomatic relationship that has been virtually frozen since 2010. This time, however, it is not being attempted through established diplomatic representatives and ambassadors, as was unsuccessfully pursued in June 2013, but at the level of chargés d’affaires.
It is important to recall that in October of last year, President Nicolás Maduro ordered the removal of the chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy in Venezuela, Kelly Keiderlang, as well as two other US diplomats. They were expelled for allegedly “meeting with the Venezuelan extreme right and encouraging them to finance actions to sabotage the electrical system and the economy.” Since then, the two countries’ delegations have been operating without senior officials.
But now an appointment has been made, done so without prior announcement and as discreetly as possible. Maximilien Sánchez Arveláiz will be the new Venezuelan chargé d’affaires in Washington, and his US counterpart Lee McClenny will be stationed in Caracas, as confirmed by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua and representatives of the US State Department.
It is interesting that these appointment would be made so surreptitiously and at a time when verbal and political tensions between the two governments are seemingly at their peak. According to the United States, this tension is a consequence of Maduro’s strong radicalization and repression of the democratic opposition in Venezuela. For Maduro’s government, the relationship has been soured by the Obama administration’s intervention in the Venezuelan conflict and their various conspiracies and assassination attempts against the president.
It’s clear that the real reasons for this “new” approach go beyond the traditional business interests that have always existed between Venezuela and the United States, even during the Chávez years. This sudden “understanding” between the two countries is in large part motivated by Maduro’s keen interest in neutralizing the sanctions that the Obama administration has threatened to use against Venezuelan government officials accused of corruption and human rights violations. There has been bipartisan pressure stemming from the US Congress for targeted sanctions, and while the administration has said they will not presently be pursuing this option, it has not ruled them out entirely.
To be clear, these would not be sanctions against the Venezuelan people in the form of economic embargoes or military actions. On the contrary, they would be sanctions directed at specific government officials who have committed crimes in Venezuela and elsewhere. For the moment, however, the United States is seeking to minimize the effects of the anti-imperialist rhetoric from the Chavistas and other Latin-American progressives, as well as the false accusations of US intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.
In fact, UNASUR governments committed the legal and political aberration of condemning US sanctions before they occured, pandering to the Venezuelan dictatorship. However, this does not mean the Obama administration could not implement sanctions in the future if the Maduro regime does not yield in its radicalization — even if only in the economic realm, as it is actually beginning to do.
Venezuela’s severe economic crisis may also be playing a role in the country’s current approach to diplomacy with the United States. Maduro has been forced to implement new policies to face the problems of the economy and is eager to attract investments from the United States and other countries. After shunning international investment for over a decade, the Venezuelan government recently “met with investment banks to try to change the perception of risk in the country and set the stage for upcoming economic policies,” according to a report by the Associated Press.
The decision to place the French-Venezuelan diplomat Maximilian Sánchez Arveláiz in the role of chargé d’affaires in Washington, however, is more difficult to understand. Arveláiz is a former Venezuelan ambassador to Brazil and former director general of the International Relations Office of the President of the Republic until February 2010.
As the Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda has pointed out on several occasions, Arveláiz belongs to the so-called Paris Group, where for years he worked hand in hand with the ousted former Vice Minister Temir Porras. He is also good friends with Marco Aurelio García, the Trotskyist foreign-affairs advisor to both Brazil’s former President Ignacio Lula Da Silva and current President Dilma Rousseff. Furthermore, he has been a key strategist for the Chavista project, an expert agitator and international Bolivarian infiltrator, especially in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. To top it off, the man has no knowledge or experience in economic matters.
It’s enough to leave one wondering: what else could Maduro’s fading regime be up to?