Venezuela’s new president Nicolás Maduro has a vigorous schedule of international travel. The country’s position in the international arena must not be allowed to weaken even temporarily. Venezuela’s traditional partners need to be shown that Hugo Chavez’s policy will be strengthened, despite attempts by the radical opposition to introduce «pro-American amendments» into it. The neutralisation of hostile activity in Latin American and European countries by the defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is also important. His «revelations» (with regard to «rigging» during Venezuela’s election campaign) are being financed through US intelligence channels and retransmitted via the information and propaganda structures of Barack Obama’s administration.
One cannot but admire the single-mindedness with which President Maduro is fighting to assert his authority and his image as Chavez’s reliable successor. In many respects, Venezuela’s new president is following the advice and recommendations given to him by Chavez during their final conversations in the clinics of Havana and Caracas. With regard to the steps being taken by Maduro within the country, the desire to establish a dialogue with the moderate sector of the «middle class», to keep confrontation with this part of society to a minimum, is clearly visible. Maduro has launched strong measures in the fight against crime, as well as the transportation and concealment of food products. It should be noted that the «fifth column» have been aggressively pursuing and are still pursuing «special operations» like these in order to compromise the regime. Its network of agents is being exposed by security agencies and prosecuted in court for acts of sabotage. The fight against corruption is also being included in the agenda. The recent arrests of «thieves and fraudsters» in government bodies has shown that there will be no mercy for corrupt officials.
Maduro’s first international visit was to Cuba, with which the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is linked through common strategic, ideological, energy, trade, economic and military ties. This was followed by official visits to the Mercosur countries Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. Maduro also found time in his extremely busy agenda to visit Haiti, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia. The western media did everything possible to hush up his visits to kindred spirits Daniel Ortega, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa. It has censured and distorted statements made by Maduro that Chavez’s policy for the development of a comprehensive integration strategy in the region will continue, including through the implementation of a joint oil policy, in every way possible. The attention of the media has been redirected to less important issues, in particular why Maduro currently prefers to use Cubana de Aviacion’s Russian-made IL-93-300 for his travels abroad. Different explanations are being put forward, but the version heard most often is that from the information provided by former CIA agent Edward Snowden, it appears that American NSA employees equipped «aerobuses» sold to «unfriendly regimes» with top secret surveillance equipment.
Maduro has also paid visits to Spain, France and Italy. The Venezuelan leader’s visit to the Vatican had considerable resonance. Maduro’s conversation with the Pope lasted little more than twenty minutes, but during that short time important issues like the fight against poverty, the fight against drug trafficking, and the maintenance of an atmosphere of religious tolerance in Venezuela were all touched upon. Maduro made it clear that more attention would be given to the country’s relationship with the Catholic Church, including its financial support. Pope Francis and Maduro agreed to maintain an ongoing dialogue between the Church and the government, and Maduro presented Pope Francis with a portrait of Simón Bolívar, a picture with the image of Our Lady of Coromoto, the Patroness of Venezuela, and a statue of Jose Gregorio Hernandez, a physician and devout Catholic who many believers think will be canonised.
Nicolás Maduro’s first visit to Moscow was a busy one. Monday 1 July was dominated by the topics under discussion at the Forum of Gas Exporting Countries. On Tuesday, the Venezuelan president was received by the State Duma to begin with and then by the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin welcomed his Venezuelan guest in the Green Drawing Room: «I am pleased to note that you have picked up the baton from your predecessor, one of the most prominent leaders in Latin America, Hugo Chavez. Our trade and economic ties have reached a new level… all our plans are developing successfully»… According to Putin, both sides are working successively to diversify their ties. The Russian president named investment and energy cooperation, as well as military-technical links, among the accomplishments of Russian-Venezuelan cooperation. The effectiveness of the partnership is borne out every day on Venezuela’s oil fields, where Gazprom, Rosneft and Lukoil are extracting black gold from hydrocarbon reservoirs at Junin-6 and Carabobo-2.
The Venezuelan leader expressed his gratitude to President Putin «for the solidarity and personal friendship that you have had with President Chavez» who «always showed great respect and love for Russia». «We have inherited this love from him. We have come here to confirm our commitment to further strengthen and expand our strategic alliance with Russia.» According to Maduro, Venezuela and Russia «have good progress in the energy sector, oil, gas, oil-and-gas equipment manufacturing industries. Our cooperation in the military sector is also progressing at a good pace. Relations in the financial sector, agriculture, culture and education are also developing. We have 14 areas to develop and 63 topics to work on», Nicolás Maduro summed up. During the course of the meeting, the president of Venezuela repeated several times that he was satisfied with his trip to Moscow and the opportunity to «continue to move forward along the track set by President Chavez». «Russia can rely on Venezuela», Maduro declared and thanked the Russian leader for naming one of Moscow’s streets after Hugo Chavez. «It is going to be a very important moment for us».
At the end of the talks, both sides signed several documents, including a cooperation agreement for the implementation of offshore projects between Rosneft and PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company, and an agreement on the construction of a thermal power plant in Venezuela in partnership with Inter Rao UES.
Vladimir Putin summed up the meeting: «We have had constructive talks and have discussed the key areas of our bilateral strategic cooperation. It was President Hugo Chavez, a strong and courageous man and a true great friend of Russia, who was at the origins of this close cooperation. We discussed our common desire to continue the strategic cooperation between our two countries in all areas and agreed to continue coordination of our work to develop the global gas market Venezuela is a key partner for Russia in Latin America».
And just several hours after his meeting with Vladimir Putin, the Venezuelan president began his next official visit – to Belarus…