Under the three-step U.S. proposal, the first test to restore bilateral relations would be Venezuela’s acceptance of a visit by the top DEA regional supervisor based in Colombia, to map a plan of greater cooperation on anti-narcotic issues. While there are anti-narcotics officials at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, such a visit would give bilateral talks greater diplomatic weight, officials say.
My opinion: Both sides may have powerful reasons to seek a thaw as they prepare for the possibility of a post-Chávez era.
U.S. officials would like Venezuela to allow greater cooperation on drugs, terrorism and energy, regardless of who is in power, to stop the country from becoming a drug-traffickers’ paradise.
Maduro, in turn, may be buying time to consolidate his leadership at home. A hard-liner who is very close to Cuba’s dictatorship, Maduro may have talked to Jacobson to send a message within the polarized Chavista movement that he’s in charge, before any internal power struggle in Venezuela breaks out in the open.
Or he may have accepted the U.S. offer to talk at the suggestion of Cuba, whose military regime is terrified about losing Venezuela’s critical subsidies if Chávez dies. The Cubans may have told Maduro: “Make a truce with Washington, because the last thing you need while you resolve internal government power struggles at home is to fight with the Gringos.”
Whatever the case, contrary to what U.S. hard-liners say, there’s nothing wrong with the two countries exploring ways to normalize relations. But considering that Venezuelan laws that may require new elections in the event Chávez cannot take office as scheduled on Jan. 10, one can only wish that the Obama administration adds the words “democratic process” to its proposal to improve ties with Venezuela.