Venezuela Anticipates Improved Relations with Panama, El Salvador Following Newly Elected Leaders

On Sunday Juan Carlos Varela was announced the victor of Panama’s presidential electoral race, with 39.2% of the popular vote. Just hours after the results were announced, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro called to offer a renewal of diplomatic relations between the two nations, to be recognized as soon as Varela takes office on 1 July.

By Z.C. Dutka

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Nicolas Maduro and Salvador Sanchez Ceren visited Hugo Chavez’s remains in Caracas on Friday. (Archive)
Nicolas Maduro and Salvador Sanchez Ceren visited Hugo Chavez’s remains in Caracas on Friday. (Archive)
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Santa Elena de Uairén, May 5th 2014. (Venezuelanalyis.com) - On Sunday Juan Carlos Varela was announced the victor of Panama’s presidential electoral race, with 39.2% of the popular vote. Just hours after the results were announced, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro called to offer a renewal of diplomatic relations between the two nations, to be recognized as soon as Varela takes office on 1 July.

A return to diplomacy

On 5 March Maduro broke ties and froze commerce with Panama after insisting that current Panamanian leader Ricardo Martinelli was conspiring against and delegitimizing his leadership in order to justify a foreign invasion, a claim Martinelli denied.

After a wave of violent protests in February, Martinelli called upon the Organization of American States (OAS) to intervene in Venezuela. In the consequent meeting of 32 states, only Canada and the United States upheld this sentiment.

Panamanian foreign minister Francisco Alvarez felt Maduro’s response was “lamentably disproportionate,” and maintained that Panama’s stance was “in line with other countries’.”

However Maduro was not the only one to cut ties with Martinelli. In 2011, now president elect Varela was removed from the post of foreign minister and asked to resign as Martinelli’s vice-president, to which he responded “I serve my people and not a corrupt government.”

Valera subsequently became a “political enemy” of Martinelli, leading the nationalist Panameñista Party to the forefront of the opposition and Sunday’s electoral triumph.

“I just spoke with the president elect of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela. I congratulated him in our country’s name and wished him success,” tweeted Maduro. “We recalled in our conversation the good moments we shared as foreign ministers - I hope to advance towards an improvement of our [countries’] relations.”

Maduro also recalled Varela’s message of solidarity during former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s illness in 2011.

In a press conference on Sunday, Varela noted “without a doubt, that the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Venezuela will be a priority for the 1st of July, of 2014”.

He did not allude to any departure from Panama’s predetermined stance on Venezuela, however. Varela indicated his intention to “maintain our country’s position in calling for dialogue and societal peace, respect for freedom of expression and human rights in our brother country.”

Strengthened ties with El Salvador

On Friday another Central American president elect, Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador’s historically left-wing FMLN party, visited the Venezuelan capital for the first time since his election in March.

While touring the city, Ceren paid homage to Venezuela’s 19th century independence leader Simon Bolivar in the National Pantheon, as well as the remains of Hugo Chavez in the Mountain Barracks, a military museum.

With the endorsement of Maduro, who accompanied Ceren throughout his visit, a document was drawn up in the Mountain Barracks that aims to reaffirm bilateral ties between the two nations.

“We have common visions and principles, which is why it is important to make this commitment to continue deepening relations between Venezuela and El Salvador. We have new challenges ahead of us to construct reality from the thoughts of liberator Simon Bolivar and our president Chavez,” said the Salvadoran leader, who will take office on 1 June.

Ceren also noted the importance of the industrial alliance Alba-Petroleo, which has helped create employment in “forgotten sectors” of El Salvador.

“Alba-Petroleo has rescued the hopes of Salvadoran producers, it is one of the accomplishments that the commander Chavez envisioned, and it is part of our victory,” he said from within the Bolivarian leader’s resting place.

Maduro, for his part, announced Friday evening, “Dear president Salvador Sanchez Ceren, you may count on all of Venezuela’s support, through PetroCaribe and the instruments created during this era of rebirth in Latin America, count on our support for your government for the next five years.”

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