Machado Looks to Turn Venezuela Into the 'Energy Hub of the Americas'

Machado Looks to Turn Venezuela Into the 'Energy Hub of the Americas'

Mateo Guillamont
Mateo Guillamont
February 8, 2024

Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado appeared in a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the fight for freedom in Venezuela led by U.S. Representative Maria-Elvira Salazar (R-FL).

Machado overwhelmingly won the Venezuelan opposition party’s recent primary elections. However, Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro’s puppet Venezuelan Supreme Court invalidated the election results and barred Machado shortly afterward.

Machado has continued campaigning for the upcoming presidential elections despite violent opposition from Maduro’s regime.

Machado stated during the hearing she is “determined to turn Venezuela into a marvelous nation that our children can, and will, come back to.”

“The regime is in their weakest position ever,” said Machado, who is optimistic about the ability to pressure Maduro into permitting free and fair elections later this year.

“The time is now, we have a huge opportunity,” continued Machado.

Since Machado’s ban, sundry legislators have called for President Joe Biden to fully reinstate lifted sanctions against Venezuela originally removed to entice Maduro into allowing free and fair elections.

The White House has argued sanctions were not "advancing the situation".

Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar
Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar

In October of last year, the Biden Administration lifted sanctions on Venezuela’s oil and gold sectors in exchange for assurances the country would be committed to holding fair elections.

As Maduro jailed opposition figures and barred Machado from running for office, the Administration reimposed gold sanctions and announced it would renew the oil and gas sanctions relief provided, which expires on April 18.

Machado remains committed to continue negotiations with the regime, under the umbrella of the Barbados agreement, although many argue that the agreement is all but dead.

When asked about the Barbados agreement and Maduro’s —as any dictator’s— willingness to conduct competitive elections and give up power, Machado responded, “I don’t think the dictator is willing to give power yet.  But we’re not naïve… we’ve never had this balance of force before. The regime is weak and is cracking and we need to create incentives… to ensure key players who are with the regime… understand it’s in their own best interest…” to continue cooperating with Maduro.  “We have a real opportunity for a real transition through presidential elections that should take place this year.”

Representative Bill Huizenga (R-MI) asked Machado during the hearing about how US sanctions have impacted the worsening state of the Venezuelan economy and motivated opposition to Maduro's regime.

"Venezuela's GDP has decreased over 80% in the last decade, and this started much before the sanctions were put in place, and it’s because we have a regime that has intentionally destroyed the quality of life and separated our families in order to keep control of our nation," said Machado.

Much has been written about the ineffectiveness of the Trump-era “maximum pressure” economic sanctions against Venezuela and how they have actually actually worsened the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis.

Venezuelan economist, Luis Vicente Leon, wrote in his X account that when someone proposes going back to the original sanctions regime, what they’re saying is “we need to put the country on its knees, impede its participation in Western markets and push it East, deteriorate even more its electrical and health infrastructure, promote corruption and opacity in oil markets…. All of this to have the same political result as during the last six years under sanctions: consolidate the government, strengthen it and dismiss any possibility of negotiating elections…it’s a sure failure.”

When asked about what her first steps would be to help Venezuela’s tattered economy, Machado stated "rule of law, independent judiciary systems, and open markets,” adding, "we need to bring investment, we need to turn Venezuela into the energy hub of the Americas. We need to open our markets to private and international investment."

"We know what we have to do. Venezuela has a huge potential within the country and also with all who have left and want to come back," emphasized Machado.

Conservative lawmakers have intensively pressured Biden to speedily sanction Venezuela to prevent Maduro from further enriching himself at the expense of the Venezuelan people.

During the hearing, Salazar claimed the Biden administration has a "huge role to play in supporting (Machado) and forcing the regime to play by the rules that they committed to."

Last week, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL)Rick Scott (R-FL), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) sent Biden a letter urging him to immediately reimpose sanctions on Venezuela.

The White House has signaled they will impose all of the sanctions that have been lifted unless Maduro changes course prior to April 18th.

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Mateo Guillamont

Mateo Guillamont

Mateo is a Miami-based political reporter covering national and local politics

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