Maduro Venezuela describes foreign aid, Biden agreement | Business and Financial Issues
Seated on a chair in Louis XVI’s office in Miraflores, a tall, Neo-Baroque palace northwest of Caracas, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro expresses his confidence.
The country, it says in an 85-minute interview with Bloomberg Television, has abandoned US “stupid, dangerous, brutal” repression. Russia, China, Iran and Cuba are allies, its domestic opponents have no power. If Venezuela has a bad image, it is because of the huge sums of money to give it to the demons and to its developmental state.
The bomber is clearly identified. But in the midst of his criticism of Yankee imperialism, Maduro, who allows the dollar to rotate and the business community to flourish, is making a public appeal and directing it to Joe Biden. Message: It’s time to sell.
Venezuela, the world’s largest oil reserves, is in dire financial straits and is desperate for more access to global debt and markets after 20 years of anti-capitalist reforms and four years of US misconduct. The world is in a shambles, its infrastructure is collapsing, and millions of people are struggling to survive.
“If Venezuela can’t produce oil and sell it, can’t produce and sell its gold, can’t produce and sell its bauxite, make iron, etc., and can’t make money in the international market, should it pay those who have money in Venezuela?” “The world must change. Things must change.”
Instead, much has changed since Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Caracas and introduced opposition leader Juan Guaido as president. His obvious plan, to fire Maduro from office, failed. Today, Guaido is ostracized, Venezuelans suffer more than ever, and Maduro remains powerful. “I have come to this palace!” he says.
Nothing, however, would need to be urgently needed to stem the tide of the Western Hemisphere’s extremism: compromise – from Maduro, from his opponents, from Washington.
Maduro hopes the risk management agreement will open new doors, create jobs and reduce problems. This could also confirm his legacy as a firefighter for Chavismo, a well-known type of left wing in Venezuela.
“Venezuela will be a safe haven,” he said. “I urge US women not to give up money.”
Over the past few months, Democrats including Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Jim McGovern and Senator Chris Murphy, have called on the US to reconsider its position. Maduro, who nowadays does not like to leave Miraflores or the hostel where he sleeps, is waiting for a signal that Biden’s management is ready to negotiate.
“There wasn’t even a single definite sign,” he says. “Nothing.”
Sudden change seems impossible. With the help of Congress, Trump’s administration cited Venezuela for human rights abuses, violent elections, drug trafficking, corruption and money laundering. The sanctions imposed on Maduro, his wife, many offices and state-owned enterprises are still pending. While Biden’s idea of restoring democracy and “free and fair elections” is very different from Trump’s, the US has still considered the rightful leader of Guaido Venezuela.
Maduro has been providing a bit of space. In recent weeks, they have relocated six drivers – five of them U.S. citizens – from prisons to housing, provided political opponents with two or five seats on the national electoral council and allowed the World Food Program to enter the country.
The opposition, while fragmented, is talking about participating in the next round of elections in November. Norway is trying to facilitate talks between the two sides. Henrique Capriles, a key leader who lost to Maduro in the 2013 presidential vote, says it’s time for winner-take-all politics to end.
“There are people on Maduro’s side who also have noticed that the existential conflict isn’t good for their positions, because there’s no way the country is going to recover economically,” he says, taking time out from a visit to the impoverished Valles del Tuy region outside Caracas. “I imagine the government is under heavy internal pressure.”
Venezuela’s economy was already a shambles by the time Maduro took office. His predecessor, Hugo Chavez, overspent wildly and created huge inefficiencies with a byzantine program of price controls, subsidies and the nationalization of hundreds of companies.
“When Chavez came into power, there were four steps you had to take to export a container of chocolate,” Jorge Redmond, chief executive officer of family-run Chocolates El Rey, explains at his sales office in the Caracas neighborhood of La Urbina. “Today there are 90 steps, and there are 19 ministries involved.”
Once the richest country in South America, Venezuela is now among the poorest. Inflation has been running at about 2,300% a year. By some estimates, the economy has shrunk by 80% in nine years — the deepest depression in modern history.
Signs of decay are everywhere. At the foreign ministry in downtown Caracas, most of the lights are turned off and signs on the bathroom doors say, “No Water.” Employees at the central bank bring their own toilet paper.
Throughout the country, blackouts are daily occurrences. In Caracas, the subway barely works and gangs rule the barrios. Some 5.4 million Venezuelans, a fifth of the population, have fled abroad, causing strains across the continent. The border with Colombia is a lawless no-man’s land. Cuba, of all places, has provided humanitarian aid.
Sanctions on Venezuela date back to the presidency of George W. Bush. In 2017, the Trump administration barred access to U.S. financial markets, and it subsequently banned trading in Venezuelan debt and doing business with the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA.
The offensive was brutally effective, accelerating the economic collapse. Last year, Venezuelan oil production slid to 410,000 barrels a day, the lowest in more than a century. According to the government, 99% of the country’s export revenue has been wiped out.
All the while, Maduro was retaliating, trying to initiate talks with the US He sent his foreign minister to a meeting at Trump Tower in New York and his brother, a former communications minister, to unity in Mexico City.
Maduro is said to be on the verge of having one with Trump alone at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018. The White House, he recalls, called for a plan, but to end the alliance. Maduro criticizes them for Trump’s foreign currency trading, many of which continue to Venezuela in Florida.
“She did not want to get into trouble,” she says. “If we had met, history would have been different.”
Former bus driver and organization leader, Maduro has confirmed the last survivor. He defeated his rivals in building a cement at the United Sociality Party after Chavez’s death in 2013, fought threats in 2018 and 2019, and defeated Trump.
Guaido, who had worked with the US campaign to oust Maduro, was forced to change his approach to a change of government to negotiate.
“I support any effort to make free and fair elections,” Guaido said in his Eastern Caracas office, surrounded by illegal, state and federal Covid-19 cases. “Venezuela is tired, not just of democracy but of totalitarian rule, the whole country.”
If Maduro feels the heat, he is not showing it. Several times a week, usually for 90 minutes, he appears on state television to blow up the “economy” and promise his slavery in the hands of the people. Many observers tell the story carefully: Freedom, dignity and freedom in Venezuela are being undermined by the misuse of money.
During questioning, Maduro insists he will not be shaken if the US continues to have a gun to his head. Any demands for domestic law reform “are over.
“We’re going to be a team, we’re becoming a defense,” he says. “No country in the world – no country, not even Venezuela – wants to bow down and give up its legacy.”
The truth, as everyone in Venezuela knows, is that Maduro has already been forced to accept big things. Led by Vice President Delcy Rodriguez and his adviser, Patricio Rivera, Ecuador’s former finance minister, removed tariffs, paid subsidies, abandoned export restrictions, allowed bolivar to float freely against the dollar and created special currency stimulants.
Rural areas continue to suffer, but Caracas has been hit hard. Customers no longer have to pay high bills and grocery stores, which do not exist, are often piled up.
Maduro also introduced a fund-raising law for business owners.
These changes are acceptable, they could be a mistake for the International Monetary Fund’s established program, not for Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. Maduro responds that they are weapons of “military economy.” Obviously, the dollar has become an “escape instrument” for consumers and businesses, but those and others who do not want to go to capitalism are short-lived.
“In the near future, the bolivar will once again have a strong and stable role in the economic and commercial affairs of this country,” he said.
It was not so long ago that the US saw Venezuela as its ally. Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and DRM Corp. had major executives in the oil industry in the country and the refineries in Texas and Louisiana were modified to correct the negatives from the Orinoco Belt. Venezuelan rich people travel to Miami frequently, talking about this as a second home.
All of that changed when Chavez was elected in 1998. He took billions of dollars from US oil and formed alliances with the media in Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador.
Maduro continues, embracing Washington’s most formidable foes. He described relations with Russia as “strange” and sent a birthday card to Chinese President Xi Jinping. I despise Biden: Continue to oppress Venezuela and you will meet another Castro, not a leader who still has hope of winning.
Guests at the VIP Lounge at Simon Bolivar International Airport were reminded of the new relationship in Venezuela. Three clocks set in the queue marked the time in Caracas, Moscow and Beijing.
Asked what he meant by the interview, Maduro replied that “the future world is in Asia.” But the thought goes through his mind. Maybe, they say, there should be watches in New Delhi, Madrid and New York, too.
The next afternoon, there are actually six links to the wall in the living room. In this country, Maduro is still all-powerful.
Except for one thing: Like many others in Venezuela, mechanics do not work.