June 20, 2019

The United States blames Maduro’s government for the situation in Venezuela

By Guido Lanfranchi.

In the wake of meetings with representatives from both the Venezuelan opposition and Russia, U.S. Special Representative Elliott Abrams blamed the government of Nicolás Maduro and its supporters for the crisis in Venezuela. The United States – he announced – will continue to push for the restoration of democracy in the country.

As the situation of Venezuela continues to be characterized by the power struggle between Mr. Nicolás Maduro and Mr. Juan Guaidó, this political clash has implication on the international diplomatic scene too. The international community remains split on the political crisis faced by Venezuela: on the one hand, 54 countries, led by the United States and the Lima Group, have recognized the legitimacy of interim President Guaidó; on the other hand, other countries around the world, including powerful states such as Russia and China, continue to consider the government of President Maduro as the legitimate one. While the positions of these countries remain distant, diplomats from both sides are currently attempting to jointly address the situation in Venezuela, as proved by the recent talks between Senior U.S. and Russian officials in Rome.

While the positions of these countries remain distant, diplomats from both sides are currently attempting to jointly address the situation in Venezuela, as proved by the recent talks between Senior U.S. and Russian officials in Rome.

In the wake of the Rome talks, Mr. Elliott Abrams, U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela, addressed the press to explain the U.S. administration’s position on the situation in the country. Touching upon the situation in Venezuela, Mr. Abrams regretted the continuation of the blackouts that have been recently affecting the country, defining them as “a symbol of the mismanagement that the Maduro regime is responsible for”. He went on by accusing the government of weaponizing and politicizing the humanitarian aid distributed in Venezuela, as well as of ensuring the loyalty of the army through a mix of fear and clientelism.

Special Representative Abrams continued by outlining the U.S. strategy in Venezuela. He reiterated that the only aim of the United States is “supporting the Venezuelan people in their desire to get rid of the Maduro regime and return Venezuela to democracy”. In doing so – he pledged – the U.S. will continue to back interim President Juan Guaidó, as shown by the recent meeting held by Guaidó’s wife, Ms. Fabiana Rosales, with U.S. President Trump and Vice President Pence. Moreover, the U.S. will continue to insist for the delivery of humanitarian aid in the country – Mr. Abrams noted, dubbing as “ridiculous” the narrative portraying the U.S. aid as malign interference.

As for the relations between the U.S. administration and the Maduro government, Special Representative Abrams underlined that past attempts to negotiate with Mr. Maduro did not lead to any steps forward for the country. Therefore, “the only thing to negotiate with Maduro is his terms of departure” – he claimed, stressing that the U.S. administration will continue with its strategy of applying pressure on Mr. Maduro through sanctions. Questioned about the potential negative effects of such sanctions on the Venezuelan population, Mr. Abrams underlined that the economic crisis affecting Venezuela dates back to well before the recently-imposed U.S. sanctions, thus fully blaming the government for the current situation.

After blaming the government of Mr. Maduro, Special Representative Abrams went on by pointing the finger at its international supporters, chiefly Russia. He condemned Russia for its support to the government of Mr. Maduro, accusing Russian authorities of being interested in protecting the money owed by Venezuela to Russia, without caring about the Venezuelan people. Moreover, Mr. Abrams condemned the recent arrival of military flights from Russia to Venezuela, describing such actions as “counterproductive for any solution”. However, he noted that the discussions between the U.S. and Russia on Venezuela continue, including at a very high-level, with the direct involvement of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Finally, Special Representative Abrams voiced its concern for the arrest of Mr. Roberto Marrero, Guaidó’s chief of staff, pointing at it as an example of the increasing repression perpetrated by the government of Mr. Maduro. Speaking about the potential challenges faced by interim President Guaidó himself, Mr. Abrams warned that “the regime will pay an enormous price for doing anything to Interim President Guaidó, not just diplomatically but internally from the Venezuelan people”, and expressed his hope that the Venezuelan government will decide not undertake any such measures. 

Until now, the U.S. has decided to employ economic, political, diplomatic, and financial pressure to address the situation in Venezuela – Special Representative Abrams argued. Yet – he specified – all options remain on the table, as recently remarked by U.S. President Trump. As the situation in Venezuela evolves, international dynamics are set to play a key role in shaping the course of events. 

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