US interest in oil and the relationship between Lula and Maduro

The international normalization of the Nicolás Maduro government in Venezuela is a matter of time. A number of recent moves indicate this and, more, indicate the interests behind it. The main one, of course, is oil. All these recent movements took place independently of Brazil. With the upcoming inauguration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for his third term, how will the Brazilian position change in this scenario?

In early October, a vote in the Organization of American States nearly removed Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s representative. The Venezuelan parliamentarian was recognized as president of the country by the international community, including the USA, in January 2019, after considering that the Venezuelan presidential elections of 2018 were illegitimate.

What ensured Guaidó’s support at that moment was the fact that he was president of the National Assembly, the Venezuelan legislature. Almost four years later, Guaidó’s authority has waned, inside and outside Venezuela. Today, he is not even the undisputed leader of the National Assembly, after an agreement in January 2021 that chose Jorge Rodríguez as president of the house. Guaidó maintains his leadership among the opposition.

In the OAS, only four countries voted in favor of Guaidó and nineteen voted against. It was the number of abstentions that saved the Venezuelan deputy. One of them was even from the Brazilian government of Jair Bolsonaro. That is, in one of the main forums of American countries, Guaidó was almost excluded, opening the way for a normalization of relations with Maduro.

Colombia and Venezuela

Then, on the first of November, Colombia’s new president, Gustavo Petro, met with Maduro in Caracas. The meeting marked a turning point in relations between the two countries, as Colombia was one of Maduro’s staunchest opponents, including the breakup of relations at the beginning of 2019 and the closure of the important border between the two countries.

Petro, from the left, committed himself to dialogue with the neighboring country during his electoral campaign. Shortly after taking office, his government reopened the embassy in Caracas and “changed” the representation, failing to recognize Guaidó and normalizing relations with Maduro. The new Colombian government has also pledged to play a greater role in mediating talks between the government and the opposition, with a view to future Venezuelan elections.

It was the end of Guaidó’s main regional support. Talks between the government and the opposition had been paralyzed since October 2021, following the extradition of Colombian businessman Alex Saab, an ally of Maduro, to the US by Cape Verde. In addition to the support of the Colombian government, the resumption of talks has also been the subject of conversations with other leaders in recent weeks.

On the day 12 of November, Petro, Argentine President Alberto Fernández, Norwegian diplomats and French President Emmanuel Macron met in Paris to discuss the Venezuelan dialogue. The Norwegian presence is due to the fact that the country is one of the mediators of the dialogue. Last week, November 23, it was announced by Mexico, the country where the mediation takes place, that the talks had resumed.

The main objective of the talks is to hold a broad and transparent presidential election in 2024. This, of course, includes other items, such as amnesty for political prisoners and the humanitarian crisis that is plaguing the country, an accumulated consequence of several factors, such as economic mismanagement, corruption, international sanctions and the covid-19. On the last day 26, the first fruit of this new round of dialogue was announced.

Oil and Lula

A fund of around three billion dollars will be created to solve the humanitarian crisis. The money in the fund is Venezuelan money, coming from foreign currencies frozen abroad. As the government and opposition disputed the legitimacy to manage this money, the fund will be managed jointly, with mediation by the UN. The agreement, in turn, has also yielded a change.

As a supposed sign of “goodwill”, the US government announced, on the same day 26, which will authorize the company Chevron to explore oil in Venezuela again, provided that the Venezuelan state-owned PDVSA is not directly involved. The oil industry is the country’s main economic activity and the normalization of this industry, affected by US sanctions, is key to Venezuela’s economic recovery.

Of course, this “goodwill” sign is driven only by the US interest in taking back an important oil supplier in the midst of the unstable scenario of the energy market in the midst of the conflict in Ukraine and the latest OPEC decisions. The great advantage of Venezuelan oil in relation to the US market is due to its geographic proximity, guaranteeing a constant and relatively cheap flow of the product.

This is the situation that Lula will find himself with after taking office, on the first day of

. Lula’s Brazil will certainly resume relations with the Maduro government. This will certainly have repercussions on domestic politics, since the idea of ​​“becoming a Venezuela” is almost a mantra present in the Brazilian electoral scenario. It is important, on the other hand, to point out that this improvement in relations is also in the interest of the US.

For Brazil to function as a regional mediator, a bridge between the different governments of the continent, is a historical role of the country, exercised several times by different Brazilian governments. In recent years, Brazil has almost completely lost its relevance in relation to the Venezuelan scenario, a consequence of the completely ideological foreign policy imposed in recent years with regard to our neighbors.

If the Lula government manages to boost Brazil as a mediator in the Venezuelan situation, this could bear fruit not only in the region, but also in relations between Brazil and USA. The Macron government participated in recent conversations involving South American countries as the Biden government does not currently have a reliable interlocutor for this. Maybe it could come to Petro, but its most sensible bet is to count on Lula.


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