2022, the year of Venezuela’s strong comeback in the regional game?

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Long considered a “pariah,” Venezuela and its president, Nicolás Maduro, appear to be finding favor with the international community. Colombia has made a spectacular rapprochement with its neighbor and the United States would also consider relaxing the sanctions imposed on Caracas. For Christophe Ventura, director of research at IRIS, the balance of power has changed considerably.

RFI: Why this rapprochement between Colombia and Venezuela?

Christopher Ventura: This rapprochement was guided by the impulse that the new leftist Colombian president, Gustavo Petro, wanted to give to his foreign policy. He announced it during his election campaign. His objective is to normalize relations with this historical neighbor, after seven years of interruption of commercial exchanges on the border and the rupture of diplomatic relations under the previous right-wing government of Iván Duque.

Bogotá participated very actively in the Latin American and American front against the recognition of the legitimacy of Nicolás Maduro as head of Venezuela, and in favor of Juan Guaidó, the former president of the National Assembly. Gustavo Petro’s objective is commercial above all else, commercial relations are in the DNA of the economic schemes of these two countries. The Colombian president also wants to try to go through Venezuela to negotiate peace with ELN guerrillas. Finally, the 2,200 km border between the two countries is the focus of all smuggling and trafficking.

For Nicolás Maduro, is this a winning strategy?

This imposes him as the Venezuelan head of state while, until the arrival of Gustavo Petro, Colombia no longer recognized him as the legitimate president. It is a strategic setback on the part of Gustavo Petro, which gives Nicolás Maduro the legitimacy that he wants to have and that he believes he has never lost.

The Secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken, was recently in Colombia. He surely also talked about Venezuela during this visit. Could the United States review its sanctions policy towards Caracas?

It was not at all anticipated and anticipated, but one of the geopolitical impacts of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict is that the United States tries, in a very pragmatic way, to close the gaps in its oil imports by “reopening the tap” from Venezuela. . Historically, the entire Venezuelan oil industry has been linked to US oil production and value chains.

► Read also: Venezuela wants to recover its role as an oil power

Doing so would require a massive investment in Venezuelan infrastructure, after years of crisis and deterioration linked to the economic situation and the sanctions imposed by Washington. Americans may be able to put these investments on the scale. In any case, this allows Nicolás Maduro to play a diplomatic and strategic sequence in his favor.

What is happening with the Venezuelan opposition and its leader Juan Guaidó, recognized by Bogotá and Washington?

Juan Guaidó is more than ever in a bad position. The chapter of his legitimacy and power in Venezuela seems to be left behind. An example that sums it all up: last week, within the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS), a motion was put to a vote to exclude the representative of Juan Guaidó as the official representative of Venezuela.

The United States and its allies, in order not to lose face, prevented this resolution from obtaining a two-thirds majority. But the majority of member countries, including Colombia, voted in favor of this resolution. This shows how the balance of power has changed.

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