The meeting of a delegation from the Joe Biden government last weekend in Caracas with Nicolás Maduro, the Chavista leader whom they consider illegitimate, continues to spark in the United States. The White House assured this Thursday that it still does not recognize Maduro as the legitimate president and categorically denied that it is negotiating a lifting of sanctions in exchange for the release of prisoners or agreements on oil, in the midst of the energy crisis in Ukraine. The news of the release of two Americans in Venezuela has not appeased the bewilderment of the opposition due to the rapprochement with the Chavista regime, nor the criticism of Republican and Democratic legislators. The Colombian president, Iván Duque, was visiting the North American capital in the midst of controversy and reaffirmed his condemnation of the “dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro”.
“We do not recognize Maduro as the leader of Venezuela, but he was detaining US citizens and our priority was to bring those US citizens home,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki stressed at her daily press conference. Psaki had said on Monday that the weekend meeting had addressed, among other issues, “energy security.” This Thursday she clarified that, at least today, there is no open negotiation on the importation of hydrocarbons from Venezuela nor on the lifting of the economic punishments that the United States has imposed on the regime in recent years.
On January 23, 2019, Washington recognized Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela and demanded that Maduro abandon power and hold fair elections. Biden maintained the policy and the sanctions when he came to power more than a year ago, but last week an image of a thaw burst onto the scene to the surprise of Guaidó himself and much of the United States Congress. Senator Bob Menéndez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, did not hide his disgust at the lack of information this Thursday on Capitol Hill. “[Maduro] He has done nothing to earn the right for us to get involved with him,” he stressed, adding that he had found out from the press.
Menéndez made these statements after meeting with President Duque. The Colombian president avoided giving his opinion on Biden’s approach, but he did reaffirm his “coherent” position. “We will maintain the same line of foreign policy that we have maintained, condemning the dictatorship, calling Nicolás Maduro what he is, a criminal against humanity,” he stressed.
On Wednesday night, in a call with journalists, a senior official in the Biden Administration had already stressed that he had not committed to any cancellation of sanctions in exchange for this release and that “no decision” had been made about the purchase of crude oil from Venezuela. The question is what Maduro now expects from Washington.
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