On June 22, the Valdai Discussion Club held a meeting with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza as part of his visit to Russia. In his opening remarks, the moderator of the discussion Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Club, introduced the guest and emphasised the close and trusting nature of relations between Russia and Venezuela and the multifaceted nature of cooperation between the two countries. He separately mentioned the importance of the late president Hugo Chavez's ideological legacy to Russian society.
Jorge Arreaza devoted his speech to the analysis of the international situation of Venezuela in the context of US activities directed against the Bolivarian Republic. He pointed to the special character of Venezuelan identity, the special role of Venezuela in the struggle of Latin America for independence and the exceptional geographical and geopolitical position of Venezuela in the South American continent as a whole, as well as its enormous resource reserves. All this makes Venezuela an object of constant pressure from the United States, which has turned into an empire, which has long aspired to control both American continents and is trying to ensure this control by any means, including coups d'état. The minister gave a detailed historical account of the relationship between the United States and Venezuela, focusing on the problem of control over the oil industry and infringements on sovereignty. According to him, only the Bolivarian Revolution lead by Hugo Chavez prevented the final colonisation of Venezuela with the complete transfer of its sovereignty to the States and prevented it from being turned into a vassal state like Puerto Rico.
Moving on to the current situation, Arreaza spoke about the US struggle against incumbent President Nicolas Maduro, which has reached the level of threats of military invasion. He emphasised the President's desire for dialogue with the opposition, complaining about its lack of independence and dependence on the United States and Europe. “Someday experts will be able to make a political and legal analysis of what happened in Venezuela from 2016 onwards. Not a single textbook of international law allows you to deny the results of the constitutionally held presidential elections!" he declared. The minister also paid attention to the illegality of the US sanctions and their inhumanitarian impact. According to him, because of them, it turned out to be extremely difficult for the country to survive the pandemic and the coronavirus. In particular, Arreaza outlined the situation with the COVAX vaccine programme: the last payment was blocked by the bank, as a result of which Venezuela could not receive a single dose of the vaccine under the programme, and thanked Russia for supplying its own vaccine to the country.
Dmitry Razumovsky, director of the Institute of Latin America of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the second participant of the meeting, identified three factors in which he sees prospects for constructive development. The first is the failure of attempts to build regional solidarity against the Venezuelan authorities. It did not work to create a front against Maduro. However, it is too early to talk about the formation of a pro-Venezuelan unity in the region. The second positive aspect is associated with the change of administration in Washington. The destructive measures promoted by the Washington hawks did not work and had led to disappointment among part of the American establishment in such a policy. Representatives of expert circles close to the Democratic Party point to the counter-productiveness of the policy of harsh pressure and denial of legitimacy to legally-elected governments. It is even possible for the United States to move away from the automatic perception of the left in Latin America as enemies and the right as friends, and a transition toward a cooperation with the centre-left and moderate left in place of the heavily discredited right-wing regimes. This could change the whole picture in South America.
The third aspect is sanctions. The crowding out of huge sectors of the world economy reduces the effectiveness of US economic weapons and stimulates the creation of mechanisms to bypass American restrictions. In the United States, many are seriously concerned about this risk, and in this connection, attempts can be observed to mitigate the pressure of sanctions. Moreover, Washington has deprived itself of its main moral trump card of economic pressure. Now it is impossible to blame the government for the economic problems of Venezuela, it is obvious to everyone that the economic and humanitarian catastrophe in the country was the result of sanctions. In conclusion, Razumovsky pointed to the deep historical roots of close cooperation between Russia and Venezuela and the great opportunities for joint actions of the two countries within the framework of multilateral institutions.