Venezuela Likely Topic In Biden Meeting With Colombia's Duque - EconomyDiary

Venezuela Likely Topic In Biden Meeting With Colombia's Duque - EconomyDiary

WASHINGTON/BOGOTA, March 10 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden and Colombian President Ivan Duque are expected to discuss Venezuela when they meet at the White House on Thursday, days after Duque expressed some public concerns about secret negotiations between the United States and Venezuela.
The meeting between Duque and Biden has been long-planned. But talks between senior U.S. officials and representatives of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, which led to the release Tuesday of two detained Americans, appeared to raise eyebrows in the Colombian government.

A U.S. delegation's weekend visit to Venezuela and talks with Maduro focused on the fate of the detained Americans and the possibility of easing U.S. oil sanctions on OPEC member Venezuela to fill a supply gap if Biden banned Russian oil imports - something he did on Tuesday. 

Venezuela is Russia's closest ally in South America, and U.S. is gauging whether the country would distance itself from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Maduro's management of Venezuela has caused a humanitarian crisis that has affected Colombia.

"This is a topic that the United States will have to reflect about," Duque told Reuters on Monday on the sidelines of the CERAWeek by S&P Global energy conference in Houston, when asked about the possibility of easing sanctions on Venezuela.

"The United States has had a position about this (that) we have shared, which is to call things by their name. And that government (Maduro's) is a dictatorship," he added.

A senior Biden administration official, asked about Duque's comments, said they were "very measured" and that Duque "is entitled to his view."The U.S. official said he did not believe the U.S. talks with Venezuela had soured the Biden meeting, which is expected to focus on migration, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and economic recovery.

Duque's visit comes ahead of legislative elections and presidential primaries in Colombia on Sunday, where several left-leaning candidates have floated changes to the cornerstone of the U.S.-Colombia relationship - the fight against drug trafficking.

Duque, who will leave office in August, came under sustained pressure from the Trump administration to decrease cultivation of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine. Colombia has long been a top producer of the drug, despite billions in U.S. funds meant to combat it.

The Biden administration has so far focused its Colombia-related anti-drug trafficking strategy on widening sanctions on criminal gangs and on adding former FARC rebels who reject a 2016 peace deal and still participate in drug trafficking to its terrorist list. 

The United States said last month it will contribute $8 million to Colombia's national police to support human rights and anti-corruption training of the force and also that the two countries will share intelligence to head off possible interference in elections later this year.

The Biden administration hopes to see Maduro's government return to the negotiating table with his opposition party to arrange for fair elections. But Maduro, backed by Venezuela's military as well as Russia, Cuba, China and Iran, has shown little willingness to loosen his grip on power.

Featured Brokers

Left Banner
Right Banner