Senior US officials traveled to Venezuela on Saturday to meet with the government of President Nicolás Maduro to gauge whether they might be willing to distance themselves from Russia over the invasion of Ukraine in exchange for an easing of US sanctions on its oil sector.
“We should take this opportunity to achieve a diplomatic win and a wedge between Russia and Venezuela,” said Scott Taylor, a former Republican congressman from Virginia.
Venezuelan expert on energy Francisco Monaldi at Rice University in Houston said that if the United States limits the imports of Russian oil, Venezuela would be able to replace some of the lost supplies.
“Here lies the oil of Venezuela, which is available for whoever wants to produce and buy it, be it an investor from Asia, Europe, or the United States,” Maduro said in a public speech Thursday.
Shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Yuri Borisov, Russia’s deputy prime minister, traveled to Caracas to meet with Maduro’s officials.
According to statements from both governments, Maduro spoke to Putin by telephone twice last month.
Previously, the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Maduro and closed its embassy in Caracas in 2019 after accusing Maduro of electoral fraud.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration tried to topple Maduro’s government by sanctioning Venezuelan oil exports and the country’s senior officials, and by recognizing the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela’s lawful president.
Maduro responded to the sanctions by seeking economic and diplomatic help from Russia, as well as from Iran and China.
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