President Nicolas Maduro says a top U.S. State Department official will soon visit Venezuela in a bid to ease tensions between the two nations, AP reports:
Maduro’s announcement Tuesday night came a day after he met with Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of a peace ceremony in Colombia. It would be the second visit this year by Thomas Shannon, undersecretary of state for political affairs. A trip in June on a similar mission that has yet to produce any apparent breakthrough.
Venezuela’s deep economic recession has spiraled into a humanitarian crisis. Venezuelans are suffering through severe food and medical shortages while crime skyrockets and massive protests call for Maduro to resign, CNN adds.
Maduro and Kerry met for the kind of brief exchange that, under normal circumstances, might have been the start of a thaw after years of icy relations. But these are not normal circumstances: Venezuela’s economic and political crises have left it more isolated than it has been in years — and not just from the United States, The New York Times reports:
Triple-digit inflation and a 10 percent economic contraction are expected this year at the same time that Mr. Maduro has faced a congress led by the opposition and a growing movement to oust him. But Mr. Maduro has doubled down, surrounded himself with a cadre of hard-liners and military men, blocked the congress with his courts and locked up many people who demand a recall vote.
“The main concern in the U.S. is the risk of utter collapse and uncontrolled chaos,” said Michael Shifter, the president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy forum in Washington. “And that is why there is this kind of effort to keep this communication going.”
The bigger challenge for Venezuela’s opposition lies beyond December, according to Stratfor:
The government appears to be united in its attempt to shut down the referendum movement this year, and possibly the next. Should it succeed, MUD’s effort to position itself as a viable alternative to the ruling party ahead of Venezuela’s 2019 elections will be made all the more difficult. Unless social unrest stemming from Venezuela’s economic deterioration boosts the opposition coalition’s popular support base, its hopes of forcing a recall referendum in 2016 are unlikely to be realized.
Save the Date! From Memory Draw a Map of Venezuela (above). 2nd auction in benefit of Acción por la Libertad Click