In a bold move they see as decisive, the United States and most of its allies recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president in 2019, hoping to spur the departure of leftist Nicolás Maduro.
Four years later, Maduro is still in power and the self-proclaimed government backed by Washington has dissolved. The US still considers Maduro illegitimate, but acknowledges that something has changed.
For Freddy Guevara, a member of the opposition group negotiating with the Venezuelan government in Mexico City, the change came in March when Biden’s representatives traveled to Caracas to meet with Maduro and not Guaidó. “We understand that we are not the center of the world and the problems of the war in Ukraine. But I think it’s a big mistake,” he said.
If the US position marks the collapse of the Guaidó government, he says: “I wouldn’t say it’s US policy, but I think there are people inside the US government who want it to happen.” “There are some people who simply consider that the issue of Venezuela is more complicated and that it is easier to deal with it like they did in Saudi Arabia, they accept that it is an autocracy and they faced it.”
Maduro and the US held a prisoner swap in October, and the following month the Biden administration eased sanctions to allow Chevron to continue drilling for oil in Venezuela, part of an effort to lower prices. in the world.
Three weeks after Trump called Maduro “illegitimate,” the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, leaving the revenues of its U.S. subsidiary Citgo in the hands of the interim government. of Guaidó.
According to Carrie Filipetti, a State Department official under Trump, Americans believe that the change of government will happen within weeks or months. And this means that “we have never been able to increase” the influence because with sanctions “it is already on top.” “Somehow, the mistake in timing ended up causing a mistake in strategy,” he said.
Trump warned that “all options are on the table,” which some Venezuelans interpreted as an imminent invasion, but there was no indication that it was being seriously considered.
The United States has underestimated how long Maduro’s rule will last by escaping the “sanctions regime,” despite widespread discontent, Filipetti said.
Maduro says he wants to improve relations with Washington, which still recognizes the 2015 National Assembly, which stripped Maduro of all power.
Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern estimated that Biden is “moving in the right direction.” “To begin with, this idea that the United States can just snap its fingers and change the reality of Venezuela is unrealistic,” he said.
McGovern held Maduro responsible for “horrible” abuses, but emphasized that the sanctions “seem to punish” the population “in a pretty severe way.”
That is why he praised the agreement reached in Mexico City between the opposition and Maduro for the UN to manage US $ 3 billion in frozen Venezuelan assets for humanitarian needs and called for relief from sanctions. of the US in exchange for further progress in the talks.