The relationship between the USA and Venezuela over the past decade can only be described as shaky at best. Ever since Chavez’s rise to power in 1998 the two nations have struggled to meet eye to eye.
Although one could easily assume the divide between the two was conceived as a result of Chavez’s anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist rhetoric, it was only after a failed coup in 2002 that Chavez adopted his strong anti-US stance. The Venezuelan government accused the Bush administration of involvement in the coup, despite there being no evidence to suggest as such.
Ever since, relations between the two have been heated, despite the USA being Venezuela’s biggest importer of oil (the country’s largest export, making the USA their biggest client). The big question now is how will the relation’s between the two develop following Chavez’s death. At the time of his death the US government offered no condolences, releasing a statement saying:
“At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.”
Despite the White House recommitting itself to mending the relationship between the two nations, since Chavez’s passing relations between the two have remained strained. On March 5th Venezuelan interim president Nicolas Maduro expelled two US diplomats who he accused of trying to ‘destabilise’ the country, which has done little to help circumstances. The US government swiftly responded in kind, expelling two Venezuelan diplomats on March 11th, stating, “when our people are thrown out unjustly, we’re going to take reciprocal action.”
These two countries have made it a terrible habit of demonizing one another, and this has resulted in some ridiculous conjecture. Maduro recently, for example, urged Barack Obama to stop an ongoing plot by the Pentagon and CIA to assassinate the leader of the opposition in order to trigger a coup ahead of the presidential elections. Although no doubt there is no evidence to support such a hypothesis, Maduro is following in his predecessor’s footsteps and trying to distance the country once again from the USA.
Venezuela has made a habit of using the USA as a scapegoat for its problems, constantly berating them and having the country placed at the centre of regular conspiracy threats. Although it is safe to assume that the Obama administration would jump at the chance to mend their relations with the South American state, until the Presidential elections have been decided there is no telling how things will pan out. No doubt the opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, would welcome a more positive relationship with Venezuela’s biggest client, which gives some hope to the situation, but Maduro has already made it a policy of his to distance the two much like under Chavez.
Although there has been some interest on both sides to mend relations, recent actions from both governments demonstrate stubbornness on both sides. The two countries need to shake the childish habits and blind name calling, which has plagued relations over the last decade, and recognise this as a chance to start afresh.