Mérida, November 4, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela and El Salvador broke relations over the weekend, expelling each other’s diplomatic missions.
Right-wing Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele announced his decision to expel Venezuelan diplomats from San Salvador on Saturday. He claimed that President Nicolas Maduro lacks legitimacy and promised to receive representatives of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who proclaimed himself “interim president” in January with the backing of Washington.
Caracas reciprocated on Sunday, giving El Salvador’s diplomatic corps 48 hours to leave the country.
Following Bukele’s announcement, the president-elect of neighbouring Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, also declared that he plans to break relations with the Maduro government upon assuming office on January 14. Giammattei was refused entry to Venezuela last month after reportedly attempting to enter with an Italian passport.
Bukele took office on June 1 following his electoral victory over the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), with whom Caracas enjoyed close relations. The new president’s decision drew mixed reactions, with the FMLN classing it as a “fascist move” while the US ambassador in the country claimed that Bukele is “on the right side of history.”
In Venezuela, opposition leader Guaido thanked Bukele for his “huge backing” and for having “isolated Maduro’s regime further.
For his part, President Maduro called Bukele a “schmuck,” while Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza lashed out at the Salvadoran leader via Twitter, suggesting that he may be named Washington’s “employee of the month.”
Bukele had previously announced his government’s recognition of Guaido as Venezuelan head of state in June, joining the US-led coalition of around fifty countries backing the opposition leader. A large majority of countries continue to recognise Maduro, including India, China, South Africa, and Russia, while many others continue dealing with Caracas despite formally supporting Guaido.
The diplomatic break from San Salvador came on the heels of the victory of center-left candidate Alberto Fernandez over Mauricio Macri in the Argentine presidential elections on October 27. While Macri recognises Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader, Fernandez, who assumes office in December, has pledged to leave the regional bloc of right wing governments backing Guaido, the Lima Group, and to not interfere in Venezuelan affairs.
III Anti-Imperialist Congress
Despite recent diplomatic disputes, Maduro toasted a new continental progressive wave across Latin America during his closing speech at the III Anti-Imperialist Congress of Solidarity, Democracy, and Against Neoliberalism, held in Cuba over the weekend.
“[There is a continental] insurgency of the people against the model of exclusion, privatisation, impoverishment, [and] the individualism of savage neoliberal capitalism of the International Monetary Fund,” he said, specifically mentioning the recent leftist electoral victories in Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and parts of Colombia, as well as the anti-austerity protests in Chile and Ecuador.
He went on to describe Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Argentine President-elect Fernandez as the “brilliant heads” of this “anti-neoliberal wave.”
The congress brought together over 1,200 delegates from more than 95 countries, with Venezuela’s delegation including members from the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV), the allied Communist Party (PCV), as well as political movements such as the Bolivar-Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), the Francisco de Miranda Front (FFM) and the International Solidarity Committee (COSI).
At the congress, Maduro also announced new investment to complete the halted construction of two oil tankers, the Juana Arzuduy and the Eva Peron, which were commissioned for construction in Argentina in 2005. Maduro reportedly heard of the incomplete project after speaking with two Argentine trade unionists who informed him of a local funding deficit preventing the ships’ completion.
“There is a new governor [in Buenos Aires] and a new president [in Argentina], and Venezuela is ready to invest,” he said from Havana.
The Venezuelan leader did not, however, offer any further details concerning the amount of the investment or timetables for completion.
The tankers, which are being built at Buenos Aires Rio Santiago shipyard, were supposed to be operational in 2009, but bilateral bureaucracy, local labour disputes, and deteriorating bilateral relations halted the project, with the Eva Peron tanker allegedly 98 percent completed.
Recent US-led sanctions have targeted third-party shipping firms in a bid to deter them from filling up at Venezuelan ports. The resulting bottlenecks in crude stockpiles have forced Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and its joint ventures to reduce or cease production altogether, further crippling the country’s crisis-ridden economy.