Venezuela’s Maduro wants foreign aid, Biden deal | Business և economics news

Sitting on the gilded chair of Louis XVI, in his office in Miraflores, in the fragile, neo-Baroque palace in northwestern Caracas, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro projects unbridled confidence.

The country, he says in an 85-minute interview with Bloomberg television, has freed itself from “irrational, extremist, brutal” US pressure. Russia, China, Iran and Cuba are allies, its internal opposition is impotent. If Venezuela suffers from a bad image, it is because of its well-funded campaign of demonism by its socialist government.

The bombing is predictable. But in the midst of his condemnation of Yankee imperialism, Maduro, who allowed dollars to circulate, private enterprises to flourish, announces public petitions, and addresses them directly to Biden. Message: It’s time for a deal.

Venezuela, the world’s largest oil producer, is starving of capital, desperately recovering global debt, commodity markets after two decades of anti-capitalist reforms, and four years of distorting US sanctions. The country is in a state of silence, its infrastructure is crumbling, and the lives of millions are struggling to survive.

“If Venezuela cannot produce, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell. It is supposed to be paid to the owners of Venezuelan bonds. ” Maduro, 58, says the shores turned upside down as a result of the appeal. “This world needs to change. This situation must change. “

In fact, much has changed since Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Caracas and recognized opposition leader Juan Guaydo as president. His apparent goal of ousting Maduro failed. Today, Guido is marginalized, the Venezuelans are suffering more than ever, Maduro remains in power. “I am here in this presidential palace.” he notes.

But in order to put an end to the most terrible humanitarian catastrophe in the Western Hemisphere, only one thing was urgently needed. Compromise from Maduro, his opposition, Washington.

Maduro hopes that the easing of sanctions will open the flood of foreign investment, create jobs and alleviate poverty. It may even confirm his legacy as Chavizmo’s torchbearer, a unique mark of Venezuela’s left-wing nationalism.

“Venezuela is going to become a country of opportunity,” he said. “I urge American investors not to fall behind.”

Over the past few months, Democrats, including Gregory Mix, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Jim Jim McGovern and Sen. Chris Murphy, have argued that the United States should reconsider its policy. Maduro, who rarely leaves Miraflores or the military base where he sleeps these days, was waiting for a sign that the Biden administration was ready to negotiate.

“There were no positive signs,” he said. “Nobody.”

A sudden turnaround seems unlikely. With the broad support of Congress, the Trump administration cited Venezuela as referring to human rights abuses, rigged elections, drug trafficking, corruption, and currency manipulation. Sanctions against Maduro, his wife, dozens of officials and state-owned companies remain in place. Although Biden’s policy of restoring democracy through “free and fair elections” differs significantly from that of Trump, the United States still considers Guaido Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

Maduro gave some land. In recent weeks, he has ousted six house arrest executives, five of them US citizens, given the political opposition five seats on the national election board and allowed the World Food Program to enter the country.

Although Maduro seeks better relations with Washington, he has established close ties with Russia, Iran and China [File: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg

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.

Juan Guaido during a Bloomberg Television interview in Caracas on June 8 [File: Gaby Ora/Bloomberg]

Throughout, Maduro worked on TV channels, trying to start negotiations with the United States. He sent his secretary of state to a meeting at the Trump Tower in New York, and his brother to the minister of communications, and then to Mexico.

Maduro says that in September 2018 at the UN General Assembly, he had almost a personal relationship with Trump personally. The White House, he recalls, called for an agreement only to sever ties. Maduro blames Trump’s foreign policy hawks, many of them on the way to Venezuela in Florida.

“For notes were unbearable for him,” he says. “If we had met, the story could have been different.”

Immediately after the bus driver, the head of the union, Maduro proved to be a perfect survivor. He defeated rivals to strengthen the United Socialist Party, when Chavez died in 2013, withstood the attacks in 2018-2019, եց surpassed Trump.

Guido, who worked closely with the US campaign to oust Maduro, had to shift the strategy from regime change to negotiations.

“I support any effort to ensure free and fair elections,” said Guidon Arcelian, of his interim office in Caracas, surrounded by unofficial, state-by-state estimates of Covid-19 cases. “Venezuela is worn out, not just the democratic alternative, but the dictatorship, the whole country.”

If Maduro feels the heat, he does not show it. Several times a week, often for 90 minutes, he appears on state television to blow up the “economic blockade” and pledge his slavery to the people’s government. Populist theaters bring home a carefully written story. Venezuela’s sovereignty, dignity and right to self-determination are being violated by the immoral abuse of financial power.

During the interview, Maduro insists that he will not move if the United States continues to hold the proverbial gun. Any demand for changes in domestic policy “the game is over”.

“We would turn into a colony, we would turn into a protectorate,” he said. “No country in the world, no country, much less Venezuela, is ready to kneel and betray its heritage.”

The reality, as every Venezuelan knows, is that Maduro has already had to make big concessions. Led by Vice President Delsey Rodriguez and his adviser, former Ecuadorian Economy Minister Patricio Rivera, he lifted price controls, distributed subsidies, waived import restrictions, and allowed the bolivar to swim freely against the dollar, creating incentives for private investment.

Rural areas continue to suffer, but the impact in Caracas has been sharp. Customers no longer have to pay with boxes of banknotes, and the corridors of the supermarket, far from being naked, are often crowded.

Maduro even passed a law full of guarantees for private investors.

Henrique Capriles speaks with Venezuela’s Valles del Tui residents on June 8 [File: Gabriela Ora/Bloomberg]

The reforms are so orthodox that they could be mistaken for an IMF stabilization program, which is unlikely to be Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution. Maduro replies that they are tools of “war economy”. Of course, dollarization has been a “safe haven” for consumers և business, but it մյուս other reluctant movements of capitalism are temporary.

“Sooner or later, the bolivar will once again play a strong, dominant role in the country’s economic and commercial life,” he said.

It has not been long since the United States saw Venezuela as a strategic ally. Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips և Chevron Corp. had large oil assets in the country’s oil industry, and in Texas և Louisiana had refineries processing heavy ore from the Orinoco area. Wealthy Venezuelans traveled to Miami so often, they talked about it like a second home.

That all changed when Chavez was elected in 1998. He seized billions of dollars in US oil assets, formed alliances with the Socialists in Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Maduro went further, embracing Washington’s most dangerous enemies. He described relations with Russia as “extraordinary” and sent a birthday card to Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is a mockery of Biden. Keep treating Venezuela և You will be dealing with another Castro, not a leader who is still hoping for a winning deal.

In the VIP lounge of Simon Bolivar International Airport, the guests reminded about the new friendly relations of Venezuela. Three clocks in a vertical row showed the time in Caracas, Moscow and Beijing.

Asked what they mean in an interview, Maduro said, “The world of the future is in Asia.” But an idea crosses his mind. Maybe, he says, there should be watches for New Delhi, Madrid and New York.

The next afternoon there are really six hours on the wall. Maduro is still the most powerful in this country.

Except for one thing. In Venezuela, like many other things, clocks do not work.

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