Is Brussels at Risk Due to Maduro’s Absence at Celac Summit?

EU-CELAC Summit meets without Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

The absence of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was particularly notable at the CELAC summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina on January 24, 2023. Mariano De Alba, a senior adviser at International Crisis Group, noted that “the isolation that the Venezuelan government has experienced still exists.”

With the summit between the European Union and CELAC scheduled for July, De Alba observed that, “the fact that the Venezuelan president does not attend the meeting with counterparts such as Lula Da Silva, Gustavo Petro, and Alberto Fernández, who assure their commitment to Latin American integration, does not bode well for the meeting in Brussels.”

De Alba mentioned that the reward of 15 million dollars for his capture that Washington offered in March 2020 is still valid.

The renewed interest that the European Union has been showing in Latin America and the Caribbean has led to the CELAC summit in Buenos Aires. While European diplomacy has informed the Foreign Ministers of the European Union of the changes that have taken place in the Latin American region, the advisability of normalizing relations with the political actors of Venezuela, and the possibility of lifting sanctions, the absence of Nicolas Maduro in Buenos Aires shows that there are still many knots to resolve.

De Alba explains that, “The International Contact Group was very active in 2019 and it gradually decreased in volume until it fell asleep. Meanwhile, there have been many changes in the region, and in this group there is a good representation of Latin American and European countries.” He pointed out the importance of the role of Spain, and the willingness to help of the international community, that awaits “to be told how” to progress.

The other knots include the US license for a US company to return to exploiting oil, the release of US prisoners in Venezuela, and the acceptance that Venezuela funds are managed by a United Nations fund.

“The willingness to lift sanctions is conditional on progress towards the 2024 elections,” commented De Alba. He concluded that “for Maduro it was key to go to the CELAC summit, and his projection within Chavismo would be hit if he cannot attend the meeting in June.”

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