Maduro met briefly with U.S. President Barack Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Panama yesterday. Maduro said that the meeting was cordial, and that there was a chance for dialogue between the two countries in the coming days.
Below, a video of Maduro describing the meeting, followed by my translation:
Maduro: … we spoke for a while. Summits are for talking and going over issues, and this summit is almost over. Well, we think that the summit has been the summit of truth, and in a way, we have expressed all of the moral reasons we have to continue to be united and exist. Venezuela has received the unanimous support of all the countries in the region, and this support has been a great vote for peace. We’ve received a hug of peace, solidarity, love, from all of Latin America and the Caribbean. Impressive! Truly moving. Later on, we’ll go over and evaluate this. We’re watching what has happened here from the inside. Now, we’re going to see how our peoples have seen this, and go over this historic summit here in Panama more carefully in the coming hours.
Reporter: How was that meeting with President Barack Obama?
Maduro: Well, we’ve had a brief ten minute meeting – right here, right over there – and we talked. Maybe later I informed — or, I will inform you about what we said. It’s been a serious, frank, meeting. We spoke the truth. I’d say that it was even cordial. I think that it’s possible, with the results of the summit, as I said when they handed me the 10.5 million signatures with the support and will of our people above all, it’s possible to open, it’s possible, to open in the next few days the possibility of going into a process of conversations with the government of the United States and explore the way of respectful relations, which is the fundamental thing. The voice of Latin America and the Caribbean was unanimous in this sense. And, to dispel all that darkness that has gathered around that decree which has been vehemently rejected in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. The peoples have spoken.
Maduro: Well, we shook hands. I said, “I’ll extend my hand”. I had my hand, and suddenly I saw his hand, and I took it with affection, as we do. I said, “President Obama, I’m not an enemy of the United States, and neither are my people, nor was Commander Chavez, ever. We are revolutionaries, vehemently and passionately, and we want to build peace.” There’s a little preview!
Earlier, Maduro had called on Obama to repeal the sanctions he placed on seven Venezuelan officials suspected of committing human rights violations. During his speech before at the summit, Maduro said:
This decree is really dangerous. It’s not only sanctions against seven officials (…) this decree interferes with the internal life of Venezuela.
Maduro argued that any internal problems Venezuela might have had to be resolved internally, “in accordance to our constitution”, and that no countries likes to be meddled with.
Maduro was also quick to claim victory over the United States. He spoke at an event at the Universidad de Panama today in which he said:
The CIA’s coup d’etat handbook was not enough. They did not count on the conscience of the Venezuelan people.
U.S.: Sanctions Won’t Change
United States Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson said yesterday that Washington has no plans to amend or repeal the executive order placing sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials.
The Venezuelan government had single-mindedly focused on the sanctions in the weeks leading up to the summit, going so far as claiming to have collected 10.5 million signatures calling for the order’s repeal.
Castro Speaks Kindly of Obama
Raul Castro – the first Cuban leader to speak at the Summit of the Americas in decades – used his speech to speak kindly of President Obama, calling him “an honest man”. During his speech, Castro spoke of past tensions between the United States and Cuba, and then said:
I have told President Obama that I get very emotional talking about the revolution… I apologize to him because President Obama had no responsibility for this.
The rapidly-warming relations between Cuba and the United States have left Venezuela in a tricky position. While Cuba is Venezuela’s strongest ally, Havana’s willingness to draw closer to the United States stands in stark contrast with Caracas’ often violent rhetoric towards Washington.
BCV Looking to Sell Gold for Cash
An article published in El Nacional today claims that the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) has been trying to swap its gold reserves for cash in a desperate attempt to acquire the necessary currency to keep imports trickling into the country. According to the article, the BCV has lined up six interested banks, and it looks like a deal for the swap might be reached sooner rather than later.
Economist Thamara Herrera explained that this kind of swap is not unusual, and clarified that the BCV is not trying to sell its gold; rather, it’s looking to use it as a kind of collateral. She also said that the move is neither unusual nor bad.
Jose Guerra, also an economist, said that this is the only option Venezuela has for raising foreign currency, since issuing bonds would be expensive given the country’s poor risk rating. To Guerra, this move represents the government “scraping the bottom of the barrel” in order to a growing deficit, and predicted that if a swap did take place, corruption and lack of transparency would be its downfall:
I think that a dollar that is placed in the tumultuous foreign exchange system is a dollar that will disappear. They will use it to finance fictitious bills and imports.
Last year, a National Assembly commission discovered that $20 billion disappeared through CADIVI (the precursor to CENCOEX) over a period of two years.
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