NY Democrats’ ties to Maduro may help Biden unlock deadlock

MIAMI (AP) – This was the result of an unsuccessful coup against Hugo Chavez and Rape. Gregory Meeks was having lunch with a young MP from Venezuela at the Kennedy Compound with a bush mustache named Nicholas Maduro.

Photographs of the 2002 encounter depicted men shaking shoulder to shoulder, tied to their shared love of baseball and their respective hurdles — raising tales – Maduro on the streets of Caracas, where leftist radical guns like himself, and Son of a struggling boxer and teacher at Meeks, a public housing project in Harlem.

The exchange would be little more than an anecdote, but Maduro’s first black chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee this month to head for the 2013 Venezuelan presidency and Mix’s own unreasonable ascent through Washington’s ruthless politics .

Now, two decades later, the New York Democrat says he is ready – if asked – to confront Maduro, whom he remembers from that era as a good listener and is committed to social justice.

“There will be no softball or remembrance about the good old days,” Mix said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. “We will have some real tough things about the authoritarian things that have happened since we became president,” he said.

Whether or not to talk to Maduro: This is a macabre question before the incoming Biden administration as it reevaluates an American policy that has stopped exiled radicals in Miami, but reduced Maduro’s hold on power or the suffering of regular Venezuelans There is very little to do.

Biden’s aides say there are limited options to pressurize Maduro in the presidential election and there are no plans to lift unnatural oil restrictions or prosecutions against Maduro for drug trafficking.

But analysts believe Biden tries to dial in almost daily vitriol aimed at Maduro and threaten a “military option” of Trump’s foreign policy, where Venezuela occupied a privileged position is. Instead, he has vowed to emphasize a multilateral approach with the goal of holding free and fair elections as soon as possible.

Meeks, who attended Chavez’s 2013 funeral on behalf of Obama’s administration and whose long preoccupation with Latin America, has positioned him ideally in an open room for diplomacy. Even though he does not speak Spanish, his reputation as a straight shooter has earned him respect for the ideological division of the region.

One of the people with whom he has formed an unexpected alliance is former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a law-and-order conservative who reformed Afro-Colombians as part of free trade negotiations more than a decade ago The work that Meeks supported in defending his party’s ties with Uribe due to his opposition to Venezuela and being run by the leftists of Latin America – could come in handy because he has a politically inflammatory engagement with Maduro Wants to build momentum for.

“Maduro does not trust his shadow. But he can count on Gregory Meeks, “said former Rep. Bill Delahunt, who traveled with the Mews to Chávez’s funeral and then twice more than Caracas in the preceding mission to improve bilateral relations.” If anyone can move things forward it will be Meeks. I have no doubt that it will be an invaluable asset to the Biden administration. “

Meeks said that I am not holding myself as a peacemaker. But they said they are ready to talk to Maduro’s government if partners in Latin America, the European Union and the Biden administration see value in such an approach.

He said that his first trip as chairman as successor to New Yorker Eliot Engel would be to Haiti and Colombia, including a trip to the Venezuelan border where thousands of migrants cross every day in search of food and medical care .

“I want people to know that there will be no opposition to Latin America,” Meeks said.

Controversially, he is open to involving Maduro stalwarts Cuba and Russia in any negotiations that emerge – the consent of American allies.

Adding Cuba’s designation to this week’s Trump administration as a state sponsor of terrorism would complicate any outreach. “That’s how you solve issues of importance. You buy from many different people so that it gives confidence to the people of Venezuela in the election process. “

A recent State Department cable defending the Trump administration’s hardline policy warns that Russia, along with Maduro’s military and finance officials, is undermining hemisphere security. The cable, one of which was provided to the AP by diplomatic staff on condition of anonymity for sharing diplomatic communications, argues more aggressive support for meeting U.S. sanctions for pro-democracy efforts within Venezuela Give.

“Russia has symbolically and very publicly used its relationship with the regime to discredit the United States,” according to the Sept. 9 cable, which is said to be “sensitive but unclassified.” It was sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by James Story, Ambassador of the Venezuelan Affairs Unit in Colombia.

“If left, the cable would prove to be a very worrying rumble in favor of US foreign policy in Venezuela in the region and would be too costly for American national interests,” concludes Cable.

A spokesman for Biden’s transition team declined to comment.

The nearly 20-year relationship with Maxo began when the two were known as the Boston Group. An informal network of US and Venezuelan legalists came together across the political spectrum – Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, and Capitalists – to improve bilateral relations in Washington and Cape Cod after a brief coup against Chavez to quickly identify the US Ho.

The group is largely disbanded, with Meeks still the only American member in Congress. But two decades ago, relationships have proved resilient. For example, a Republican staffer who participated in the same four-day legislative exchange in the Cape Code with Mex and Maduro made a backchain effort to secure the release of Joshua Holt in 2018, a Caracas prison. Imprisoned for over two years is widely seen as an allegation of trumped-up weapons.

Recently, former legalist Pedro Diaz-Blum, coordinator of the Boston Group in Venezuela, has brought together dozens of pro-Maduro and opposition economists to prepare a joint study on how to reactivate the country’s devastated oil industry. . They have also discussed ways of directing humanitarian aid to the country through multilateral agencies.

After the US presidential election, Diaz-Blum traveled to Washington and saw Meeks. Before the trip, which he said he conducted on his own, he also met Maduro, who reiterated his desire with America.

“I was a member of the Boston group as a legislator and I had been to the US several times,” Maduro said in a Venezuelan congressional address on Tuesday, moderated by the Samajwadi Party after the elections unfairly boycotted by the opposition goes. “I greatly respect and admire America, its people and its culture.”

After several unsuccessful negotiation attempts to mediate by the Vatican and Norway, there have been negotiations for weakness and appeasement among many in the opposition. For nothing, the Trump administration has said that the only conditions for his exit are to negotiate with Maduro.

Meeks said that he rejects that argument. Recently a close Trump aide, Richard Grenell, a former acting director of the National Intelligence Department, met in Mexico City with George Rodriguez, a top Maduro aide who is now chairman of the pro-government National Assembly, which the US recognized Does not give .

“Trump policy was predicted on Florida politics – nothing is being done,” Meeks said.

Still, he said, he has no illusions about Maduro. After Chavez’s funeral, Meaux said he quietly returned twice to Caracas in an effort to pave the way for an earlier ambassadors’ exchange, which has not taken place since 2010. In one of those visits, she urged Maduro to release opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez. Then in jail for anti-government demonstrations.

The reconciliation attempt failed and Mix stated that he was disappointed and walked away from that experience. He said that any future overrides would require pre-determined circumstances.

“You just can’t take your word for it,” Mex said of Maduro. “He proved to me that either he was not willing to do anything in his politics or was preventing him from doing so.”


Joshua Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

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