A Year of Successful Bolivarian Diplomacy

VA columnist Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein takes stock of a number of victories for the Maduro government in the international arena.

In 2022, the Venezuelan government carried out strong international activity to continue challenging Washington’s blockade designed as part of the strategy to isolate the Caribbean country and overthrow President Nicolás Maduro.

Breaking this international exclusion required learning, developing and implementing an adequate methodology and intelligent work scheme that abandoned some of the traditional methods of diplomacy, in order to successfully grasp the new opportunities that surfaced last year when the isolation policy against Venezuela in the international arena began to crumble.

Some radical measures included reducing the role of the Foreign Affairs Ministry by appointing two low-profile ministers with modest political backgrounds: Félix Plasencia (August 2021 – May 2022) and Carlos Faría (incumbent) in order to centralize foreign policy issues amidst the country’s difficult times. Since early 2021, President Maduro alongside Vice President Delcy Rodríguez and National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez have planned and executed international relations.

It is no secret that Venezuela’s main foreign policy task right now is to fully reestablish relations with the United States. However, the Bolivarian government has reiterated that this can only be done on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference. In order to advance along this path, Venezuela has demanded the elimination of the 763 sanctions as well as 900 other measures that comprehend the 1,600 unilateral coercive measures imposed by Washington against the Venezuelan people.

The talks in Mexico between the terrorist sector of the US-backed opposition (which represents 18% of the entire Venezuelan anti-government factions) only conceal the negotiation between the Joe Biden and Nicolás Maduro administrations. Biden faces adverse internal forces which limit him from openly exposing dealings with Caracas. Therefore, he uses the most retrograde and discredited opposition bloc, which is also the most US-subordinated and manageable of the right-wing forces, as the unofficial spokespeople of US policy. The fact that the dialogue is taking place in Mexico instead of Venezuela responds to Washington’s need to have direct control of the threads of conversation. After all, the lack of diplomatic relations with Caracas has left Biden with zero on-the-ground personnel to intervene in the decisions of the subordinated political class and directly manage operations.

The trip of Juan Gonzalez, senior director for the Western Hemisphere at the US National Security Council, to Caracas in March 2022 gave the impression that it would open a channel for direct dialogue between the two countries. In reality, the visit was due to Washington’s need to explore the energy market after Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. In fact, this meeting had to be hidden from the easily manipulated US public opinion following Biden’s alleged interest in negotiating the release of US citizens detained in Venezuela.

Biden’s intention to move away from Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy against Venezuela to make it more “effective” in the pursuit of his predecessors’ common goal, which is to overthrow Maduro, has led him to try to defuse that objective, especially because he needs to find alternatives amidst the possibility of a global energy crisis of unforeseen dimensions if the war in Ukraine continues to drag on.

After the failure of the Lima Group as an instrument to push for Maduro’s dismissal and the political disappearance of most of its protagonists, Biden insisted on attempting to isolate Venezuela. For this reason, Caracas was not invited to the “Summit of the Americas” held this year in Los Angeles.

The Venezuelan government’s response was to organize —parallel to the Summit— a tour through the Eurasian region in which President Maduro visited some of the countries that play a leading role in the new international system that is opening up: Türkiye, Algeria, Iran Kuwait, Qatar, and Azerbaijan. They were part of a wider group of nations with which Venezuela strengthened relations to expand cooperation, trade, and investment in various areas of the economy and services, with emphasis on agriculture, tourism, finance, logistics, industry, mining, and of course the energy sector.

Caracas likewise continued to add expertise to the study and practical knowledge of measures and actions that will enable it to circumvent the illegal economic, commercial, and energy blockade imposed by the United States and Europe. President Maduro has carried out a political dialogue aimed at exchanging ideas that will lead Venezuela to play a relevant role in a fledging multipolar world.

Regarding regional politics, Venezuela has continued to advance in its reinsertion process after a good part of the neighboring countries had bet on following Washington’s regime change campaign. Since 2020, Caracas has witnessed the return of plenipotentiary ambassadors from Mexico, Honduras, Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay, and most likely from Brazil next year, building a scenario vastly different from the one in 2019 when the United States tried to build a parallel government that received support from right-wing governments in the region.

The full reestablishment of bilateral relations with Colombia has had a particular impact given the large number of migrants each country hosts as well as multiple common interests in terms of economic and commercial exchange. There is also a need to design a common policy to create mutually advantageous management of the countries’ extensive 2,219-kilometer shared border.

The possibility that a similar situation will take place next year with Brazil after Lula da Silva takes power will account for a total stabilization of Venezuela’s two main territorial borders generating conditions of stability and governability. This will be positive for the country, especially because tensions in matters of national security from the recent past will give way to the search for solutions through dialogue and negotiation in order to coordinate actions in the fight against drug trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime.

Finally, within the framework of safeguarding national interests, Venezuela’s Bolivarian diplomacy has reinforced the country’s position before international organizations by firmly defending its sovereignty over the Essequibo Strip. Vice President Delcy Rodríguez went to the Hague-based International Court of Justice to denounce Guyana’s violation of the 1966 Geneva Agreement to serve the interests of giant energy transnationals competing for the territory’s rich energy deposits.

Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein is a geopolitics expert, journalist, and professor with a PhD in Political Science from Venezuela’s Universidad de los Andes. He is the author of 16 books, including De Bush a Trump. De la guerra contra el terrorismo a la guerra comercial and La controversia entre Bolívar e Irvine. El nacimiento de Venezuela como actor internacional.

A former director of International Relations for the Venezuelan presidency and Venezuelan Ambassador to Nicaragua, Rodríguez Gelfenstein is currently a guest researcher at Shanghai University’s Graduate School.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.