FILE PHOTO: An oil tanker is berthing at the Jose oil terminal in Venezuela FILE PHOTO: An oil tanker is berthing at the Jose oil terminal in Venezuela 

Oil crisis triggers thaw in Venezuela-US relations

Seven Americans jailed in Venezuela, have been swopped for two nephews of Venezuela`s First Lady. James Blears reports about a thaw in frosty relations, which has its source in fossil fuels.

By James Blears

Five of the Americans released were executives of Houston-based Citgo, which is the US branch of Venezuela`s national petroleum company.  They were summoned to a meeting at HQ in Caracas in 2017,  arrested by armed agents and jailed on embezzlement charges, which they denied. 

Two years earlier, two nephews of Venezuela`s first lady Cilia Flores, namely Franqui Flores and Efrain Campo Flores were arrested in Haiti, flown to New York, and convicted on drugs smuggling charges, which they denied.  Both Governments said those imprisoned were innocent.

Each described the swap on the Island of St Vincent and Grenadines as goodwill and humanitarian gesture. But it also signifies something else which is significant. For years both have engaged in edgy political sabre rattling, with the United States imposing increasingly severe economic sanctions on Venezuela, which has caused great hardship coupled with US support of the coalition which opposes President Nicolas Maduro. But the Government of Maduro hasn`t crumbled or fallen.

Impact of Ukraine war

Now on another Continent half a world away, with the war in Ukraine in full flow, oil and gas from Russia is decreasing to a trickle and a whiff. Venezuela in spite of its infrastructure problems is still a substantial producer and major player in the Global petroleum markets, and as such, an alternative source, which has largely been untapped for some time by the United States. 

More back-channel negotiations possibly leading to an easing of sanctions, following on from this successful solution, could produce a closer working relationship if not an ideological reproachment. 

Listen to the report by James Blears

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02 October 2022, 16:46