Vladimir Putin is not limiting the extension of his influence to his neighbors. According to Venezuelan president of questionable legitimacy Nicolás Maduro, Putin has signed a “financial agreement” with the totalitarian state and expressed support for the Chavista regime.
“President Vladimir Putin in Moscow met [Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rafael Ramírez], who sent a message of confidence to Venezuela, also signed financial support agreements,” tweeted Maduro, though not explaining what the objective of the agreement is or what it may include. Maduro also tweeted a message posted on the official Venezuelan government website from Putin in honor of the anniversary of Hugo Chávez’s death.
En Moscú se reunió con El Presidente Vladimir Putin quien envió mensaje de confianza a Venezuela,también firmó acuerdos de apoyo financiero.
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 4, 2014
Venezuelan newspaper El Universal offered some clues as to what the financial agreement may entail. Traveling with the foreign minister was also the Minister of Petroleum and Mining for the Latin American nation, as well as the president of a major state-run oil company, suggesting that Russia may be buying oil in order to further fund the Venezuelan government.
Argentine media outlet Infobae reports that Russia is not the only country supporting the Venezuelan government. Foreign Minister Ramírez, who was sent to tour Asia in an attempt to woo allies of the country into public support during such a turbulent time, announced that China also “expressed all the support to the Bolivarian government of President Maduro and all the Venezuelan people; we will overcome.” He added that China would participate in “energy projects” with Venezuela, though no more detail than that has surfaced.
The new trade deals come at a pivotal time for Venezuela, as anti-socialist student activists continue an organized campaign of peaceful protests across the country. The bout of protests comes at the foot of Maduro’s decision to arrest Leopoldo López, the leader of the opposition Popular Will Party who surrendered willingly to authorities. Maduro has not stopped at arresting López, issuing a warrant also for his deputy and current acting leader, Carlos Vecchio. Vecchio is not going willingly and went underground, and he is still tweeting and releasing videos from undisclosed locations.
Student protesters with no ties to the opposition party are also targets; harrowing videos surface every day of National Guard troops attacking protesters, including one especially difficult-to-watch video of a National Guard officer bludgeoning a female protester in the head with a helmet. As the repression continues, Maduro has failed to strengthen the Venezuelan economy enough to sustain itself, despite the state’s membership in OPEC and vast oil reserves.