Antony Blinken Uses Latin America Tour to Pressure Venezuelans into Talks with Socialist Dictator Maduro

SANTIAGO, CHILE - OCTOBER 05: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press
Jonnathan Oyarzun/Getty Images, Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued his ongoing tour of Latin America, landing in Peru on Thursday, where the Organization of American States (OAS) will be holding its annual General Assembly.

Blinken’s tour has included stops in Bogotá, Colombia, and Santiago, Chile, where he has met with the two countries’ leftist presidents and pressured the continent to force Venezuela’s rightful leadership back to the negotiating table with socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro.

At a press event with Colombian President Gustavo Petro – a former member of a Marxist terrorist guerrilla – on Monday, Blinken insisted that the solution to the collapse of the Venezuelan state under socialism is “a dialogue that ultimately leads to the necessary conditions to have free and fair elections,” presumably including the chronic human rights violators currently in charge of the country.

Blinken’s remarks followed conversations with Chilean President Gabriel Boric and his top diplomat, Foreign Relations Minister Antonia Urrejola, in which Urrejola told reporters both sides agreed on the need to push Venezuela’s anti-Maduro coalition to negotiate with the dictator.

Also this week, leftist President Joe Biden freed Maduro’s nephews, Efraín Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas, from American prisoners despite their conviction in a New York court on charges of attempting to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. The liberation of the “narco-nephews,” as Venezuelans refer to them, was part of a hostage swap that resulted in the liberation of American oil executives trapped in Venezuela while attempting to profit from deals with the regime.

Past waves of “dialogue” between the socialist Maduro regime and the socialist-led establishment “opposition” in the country have resulted in waves of regime killings, torture, and other human rights atrocities. As recently as last month, the United Nations accused the Maduro regime of using rape and other sexual torture against civilians believed to oppose socialism, in addition to a large variety of torture and other forms of abuse to silence dissent. The International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague has concluded that significant evidence exists that Maduro has committed crimes against humanity.

“Dialogue” with Maduro requires the opposition to accept the legitimacy of his leadership, which has been constitutional since 2019. According to the Venezuelan constitution, the National Assembly has a right to remove the president and install an interim leader in the event of a “rupture in the democratic order.” In 2019, the National Assembly exercised this power in the face of a fraudulent “election” that gave Maduro a “victory” in 2019, choosing lawmaker Juan Guaidó as the true president.

The United States, like most of the free world, recognizes Guaidó as the legitimate president of the country. Guaidó has not ever occupied the presidential palace or controlled the nation’s military, however, rendering him largely a ceremonial figure. The socialist leaders running the establishment “opposition” have engaged the Maduro regime over Guaidó’s objections.

Years of polling have shown dialogue between the Maduro regime and the opposition to be highly unpopular among Venezuelans. Many of those who survived the pro-democracy protests between 2014 and 2017, and the Maduro regime killings that followed, have fled the country out of a lack of faith in the opposition fueled by rounds of “dialogue.”

Despite this, Blinken appeared to agree with the leftist Chilean government on the need for more dialogue.

“When it comes to Venezuela, this was an issue we discussed with Secretary Blinken at our meeting. Our position is that we hope that the initial contact group, which is in Mexico – we hope that dialogue will start up again with Maduro’s government as well as with the Venezuelan opposition, what we want as a country,” Urrejola said on Wednesday. “And we are, again – agreement with the U.S. and other countries in the region, as well as other European countries, that dialogue should start up again so that in Venezuela in 2024, there may be free democratic elections.”

Blinken did not address the issue at that press conference but did not disagree with Urrejola’s assessment of his position. Boric, one of the few leftist leaders in the world to condemn Maduro’s human rights abuses, reportedly agreed with Blinken’s stance, according to Santiago, implying that Blinken was leading the push for legitimizing the Maduro regime with talks.

In Colombia on Monday, speaking alongside President Petro, Blinken more aggressively pushed for legitimizing Maduro. Unlike Boric, Petro has been openly supportive of the Maduro regime and used his first days as president to restore ties between the two countries, mere months after Maduro subordinate Diosdado Cabello had threatened a Ukraine-style “invasion” of Colombia.

“Our strong hope for Venezuela is that the Maduro regime and the Unitary Platform [the socialist opposition] are able to pursue a dialogue that ultimately leads to the necessary conditions to have free and fair elections,” Blinken said on that occasion, “to restore Venezuela’s democracy, to restore support from the international community, and to create a much better environment and – for all Venezuelans.”

“Our strong hope is that we will see a resumption of the dialogue, negotiations, and ultimately Venezuela returning to the path of democracy through free and fair elections,” Blinken insisted.

The Biden administration most recently sent a delegation to pressure the opposition into talks in June. Following that meeting, the opposition “Unitary Platform” published a press release with little details on Washington’s role in the situation, but calling for more talks with Maduro.

“We reiterate that we are ready to immediately reassume a serious negotiation process under the memorandum of understanding signed in Mexico that we insist must have an objective ending the suffering of the Venezuelan people,” the statement read, “and achieving change through the most poweful instrument a citizen has, the vote.”

Biden has been pursuing friendlier ties with the Maduro regime since at least March, when he sent a delegation to Caracas to meet the dictator. At the time, rumors began circulating that Biden was seeking to lift sanctions on the Venezuelan oil industry to allow for purchases of the product to lower gasoline prices in the United States without allowing more domestic production. In May, the White House allowed talks between American oil company Chevron and the Maduro regime, evading sanctions.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal published anonymous rumors suggesting that the Biden administration is prepared to lift some sanctions to allow Chevron to profit off the production of Venezuelan oil.

“In exchange for the significant sanctions relief, the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro would resume long-suspended talks with the country’s opposition to discuss conditions needed to hold free and fair presidential elections in 2024,” anonymous “people” told the Wall Street Journal.

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