Miami reps reject oil talks with Maduro

Republican Miami Congressmen Mario Díaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez and Maria Elvira Salazar during a press conference on the meeting of Biden administration officials with Venezuelan authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro, at Miami International Airport on March 15, 2022.

Republican Miami Congressmen Mario Díaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez and Maria Elvira Salazar during a press conference on the meeting of Biden administration officials with Venezuelan authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro, at Miami International Airport on March 15, 2022.

Miami Herald

The Biden administration’s recent outreach to Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro to discuss oil purchases is “silly” and a “betrayal” of the Venezuelan people, Republican members of Congress in Miami said Tuesday as they were critical of the administration’s foreign affairs and energy policies.

“It’s hard to believe anyone could be so reckless, so irresponsible and, frankly, so dumb,” U.S. Representative Mario Díaz-Balart said during a media event at Miami International Airport.

“The fact that the Biden administration is meeting with Maduro and his cronies, who incidentally are under investigation for crimes against humanity, doing it in secret just tells you the level of recklessness, irresponsibility and , frankly, stupidity that we see coming from the Biden administration,” Díaz-Balart added.

Also in attendance were U.S. Representatives Carlos Gimenez and Maria Elvira Salazar, who echoed Díaz-Balart’s comments, calling Maduro’s overture “insane” and “breathtaking.”

Earlier this month, a delegation of US officials, led by National Security Council Director for Latin America Juan Gonzalez, surprisingly traveled to Caracas to discuss the release of US detainees, the possibility new talks in Mexico between the regime and the opposition, and a plan to grant U.S. energy company Chevron a license to resume importing Venezuelan oil into the United States, Venezuelan opposition sources told the Herald.

The meeting with Maduro drew a wave of criticism from both sides, and the administration has signaled it is backing away from an oil deal, at least for now. After acknowledging that the US delegation had discussed “energy issues” with the Maduro regime, administration officials later denied that the trip was prompted by soaring gas prices and the need to replace the few 600,000 barrels per day that the United States was buying from Russia. Instead, they said the primary goal was the release of Americans imprisoned in Venezuela.

Two of the Americans were released after the controversial encounter: Gustavo Cardenas, one of six Citgo oil executives arrested in 2017, and Jorge Fernandez, a Cuban-American tourist detained in 2021. But at least eight Americans remain in prison. The families of the remaining detainees praised President Joe Biden for taking the risk of entering into negotiations to secure their release, they said in a letter.

The Biden administration did not respond to a request for comment on the charges brought by Miami officials, but a State Department official spoke about the release of the detained Americans.

“As President Biden has said, even as we celebrate the return of two American citizens to the United States, we will not stop working every day to bring home all American nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained. around the world, including those who remain wrongfully detained in Venezuela,” the official said. “We thank their families who continue to advocate tirelessly for their return. The practice of wrongfully detaining U.S. nationals represents a threat to the safety of all who travel, work, and live abroad. The United States opposes this practice everywhere.

Prior to the Miami conference, relatives of one of the Americans still held by the Maduro regime hoped the three representatives would hear their plea.

“All this is above politics; it’s a human rights issue, it’s a human issue,” a relative said. “Members of Congress and the entire government of the United States should be focused on freeing Americans wrongfully detained in Venezuela and around the world,” said a second parent. They asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Asked twice about the support of the families of the imprisoned men for new negotiations, Díaz-Balart did not address the issue, saying only that authoritarian regimes in Cuba and Venezuela have held Americans hostage to obtain concessions from the United States.

The three members of Congress have repeatedly questioned the administration’s decision to reach out to Maduro and other autocratic regimes in Iran and the Middle East to boost oil imports rather than relying on the American production. (Energy industry experts have said, however, that tapping new oil wells in the United States will take time and is not a solution to increasing domestic production in the short term.)

Gimenez said the Biden administration is “warring our oil and gas industries” by making it difficult to invest in the energy sector, reaffirming its commitment to the Paris Climate Accord and suspending the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“It’s crazy,” he said.

“It’s ideological,” added Salazar.

Díaz-Balart said the administration is using the war on Ukraine and American detainees as “an excuse” to “help” America’s enemies and “sell” Venezuela’s cause of freedom.

“This is the biggest, worst betrayal of the Cuban people since the 1960s,” he said, referring to what some Cuban-American exiles think of the Kennedy administration’s handling of the invasion. of the Bay of Pigs.

References to other controversial decisions by Democratic presidents, including Barack Obama’s engagement with Cuba and Biden’s decision to remove the Colombian FARC guerrillas from the list of terrorist organizations – as well as the presence of Venezuelan, Cuban and Colombians who spoke at Tuesday’s press conference – suggest representatives believe the administration’s talks with Maduro have provided Republicans with a new line of attack and an issue that could unite Hispanic communities ahead of the election of 2022.

A rally has already been announced for Sunday at Miami’s Bayfront Park to protest negotiations with Maduro.

“Elections have consequences,” said Díaz Balart. “And now the far left controls the majority in the House, the Senate and the White House. We will continue to fight, and we are so grateful for the support of this community, which never gets confused.

This story was originally published March 15, 2022 5:06 p.m.

Nora Gámez Torres is a Cuban/American and Latin American political reporter for el Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald. She studied Journalism and Media and Communications in Havana and London. She holds a doctorate. in City Sociology, University of London. Her work has been recognized by the Florida Society of News Editors and the Society for Professional Journalists. //Nora Gámez Torres estudió periodismo y comunicación en La Habana y Londres. Hold a doctorate in sociology y desde el 2014 cubre temas cubanos para el Nuevo Herald y el Miami Herald. Also reported on the política de Estados Unidos hacia América Latina. Your work has also been recognized with awards from the Florida Society of News Editors and the Society for Professional Journalists.

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