A couple of months ago, leading officials in the Trump administration confidently spoke of the imminent collapse of the Venezuelan regime. Now, they’re girding themselves for a more uncertain and prolonged contest.
President Nicolás Maduro, a pariah in the eyes of much of the Western hemisphere, looks no closer to exiting the presidential palace in Caracas. The country’s influential military is mostly still in his camp and his grip on power remains intact, no matter the catastrophic economic crisis hollowing out his country and fueling an unprecedented hemispheric refugee crisis. While more than 50 nations may recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president, Maduro is counting on the continued support of friendlier governments, including China, Turkey and, especially, Russia.
So far, the Kremlin hasn’t disappointed him. It’s attempting to offset the burden of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company by helping the Maduro regime refine its heavy crude. Russia is also increasing wheat sales and continuing its deliveries of sorely-needed medical supplies. This week, a senior Russian diplomat in Caracas told my colleagues, a delegation of Venezuelan officials is expected in Moscow to discuss Russian investments in Venezuela’s mining, agricultural and transport sectors.