Maduro Thanks Putin for Helping Venezuela ‘Survive’

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on December 5, 2018. (Photo by MAXIM SHEMETOV / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read MAXIM SHEMETOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MAXIM SHEMETOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Wednesday, where the latter agreed to support the socialist regime economically and politically. As of press time, both sides have kept the details of this support secret, however.

Maduro landed in Moscow Wednesday after two days of negotiations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Caracas, which yielded dozens of agreements allowing Turkey expansive access to Venezuela’s gold mines and, in turn, pivotal economic support for Maduro’s regime:

Venezuela’s economy, in a state of crisis and destitution since the latter era of dictator Hugo Chávez, has long needed outside reinforcement due to suffering years of socialist mismanagement and corruption. Within the past year, however, the financial disaster has stopped limiting itself to the starved general population and begun threatening the lifestyle of Maduro and his cronies in government, forcing deals with nations like Russia, Turkey, and China.

These relationships have also suffered due to finances, as Maduro has failed to make payments on key debts, and Venezuela’s oil production, devastated by “nationalization” into the hands of incompetent socialist appointees, has collapsed, leaving the debtor state unable to pay in oil.

Venezuela is home to the world’s largest known oil reserves and boasts significant gold reserves that Maduro has now begun attempting to use to diversify the oil-centric economy.

“We back your efforts aimed at achieving common ground in the society and your efforts designed to settle relations with the opposition,” Putin told Maduro as they met at the Kremlin, according to the Russian news outlet TASS. “Certainly, we condemn any terrorism-related steps and any attempts to change the situation using force.”

Putin did not specify what he referred to when condemning “terrorism,” though Maduro has repeatedly accused the United States of supporting alleged coup efforts against his dictatorship. While President Donald Trump has mentioned the possibility of a military intervention in the past, no evidence exists that the Pentagon has taken any steps towards ending the Venezuelan crisis with kinetic action.

Maduro brought to the meeting his two most powerful Cabinet members: Hezbollah-linked Economic Minister (and former Vice President) Tareck El Aissami and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez.

Maduro applauded Russia and other allied countries for helping Venezuela “survive” through what he claimed was a concerted Western effort to end his regime. According to the official press release from the Venezuelan government, Maduro presented Putin with what he called the “Economic Growth and Prosperity Program,” an attempt to gain Russia’s trust with a comprehensive plan to fix the Venezuelan economy through socialism.

“We have found the way to advance with a complete, integral economic program that can be perfectly integrated into the Russian-Venezuelan economic vision,” the Venezuelan government quotes Maduro as saying. “I am sure that this meeting with yield good news of the elevation of this cooperation and economic labor between the two countries.”

The details of Maduro’s plan, or how much Putin is willing to participate in it, remain a mystery at press time. Before the encounter between the two world leaders, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to give reporters at a press conference a number on Russian investment in the country.

“No details, let’s wait for the negotiations,” Peskov insisted.

“The situation in the economic sphere [in Venezuela] remains difficult, though some moderate signs of improvement can be observed. In light of this, the discussion will focus on the help that Venezuela’s authorities need,” he added. “It all [Russia’s help to Venezuela] will be discussed at today’s meeting.”

Peskov also denied reports suggesting that, in lieu of oil or gold, Russia could require Venezuela to allow Russian military assets to deploy within its borders.

Russia has been one of Venezuela’s most reliable financial backers. This year, a Russian bank became the only foreign institution to back Maduro’s fictitious “petro” cryptocurrency, an attempt to override sanctions on the bolívar and offer foreign investors a more appealing currency with which to work. Russia’s Rosneft oil corporation has also cemented several deals with Caracas, though Venezuela has failed to pay its share of loan repayments. The head of Rosneft traveled to Caracas to collect on loans last week, protesting that Venezuela has been faster to pay Chinese loans than Russian ones.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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