Despite Venezuela’s growing isolation, key allies hang on

Diego Urdaneta –
Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela is increasingly isolated but it still counts support from countries such as Russia and China that can block or delay punitive action from the likes of the United Nations, analysts say.
As the economic and political situation deteriorates in the Latin American country, with 130 people killed in anti-regime protests, international condemnation of the leftist government of Caracas has increased, with the United States slapping Maduro himself with direct sanctions.
Nevertheless, Maduro still has varying degrees of support around the world, from both an ideological and financial standpoint.
“In almost all cases, support for Venezuela is strategic,” says Michael Shifter of the US-based Inter-American Dialogue research centre.
“China is looking to protect long-term access to Venezuela’s oil reserves, small countries in the Caribbean and Central America are hedging their bets and avoiding the messiness of confrontation.”
Venezuela has the support of both China and Russia, two countries traditionally opposed to international sanctions that hold all-powerful vetoes in the UN Security Council.
They have invested heavily in the country’s oil sector, and when the United States banned the sale and transfer of north American weapons and military technology to Venezuela in 2006, Caracas turned to Russia and China instead.
Moscow, which considers Caracas a “key strategic partner”, has criticised the Venezuelan opposition for “disrupting” recent elections for a Constituent Assembly that will rewrite the constitution.
The opposition has criticised the assembly as a power grab and attempt to install a “communist dictatorship”.
But according to Anna Ayuso, a researcher focused on Latin America at the Barcelona-based CIDOB thinktank, “The key support is that of China, which has invested more than $60 billion and has given loans in exchange for oil and mining concession.”
In Latin America itself, “Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua close ranks with Maduro” as they share his leftist ideology as well as fierce anti-imperialist feelings towards the United States, Anna Ayuso said.
Paul Hare, a former British ambassador in Cuba and professor at Boston University, said other regional allies also “find it difficult to break with the Chavez legacy which gave them” cut-rate crude as part of the Petrocaribe 17-nation club. — AFP