Carlos Vecchio presented his credentials as a diplomatic representative of the government in charge of Juan Guaidó in 2019 during the Trump Administration. At that time, Venezuela was one of the main issues in Washington’s foreign policy. A bipartisan caucus also recognized Guaidó’s leadership, while dozens of sanctions were imposed on individuals and institutions linked to Nicolás Maduro’s government.
The Biden Administration inherited and reaffirmed the recognition of Guaidó as interim president, but the definition of his policy on sanctions towards the government of Nicolás Maduro remains an unknown, at least from the outside.
President Joe Biden marks his first month at the helm of the country this Saturday. In the meantime, the White House emphasized that the government’s objectives will be to “reinforce the multilateral diplomatic path” to press for a democratic solution, face the humanitarian crisis and “persecute” individuals implicated in corruption and human rights violations.
For Ambassador Vecchio, the Venezuelan crisis will be an issue “impossible to ignore”, even though he recognizes that, beyond the pandemic and the “American agenda”, the border situation and the relationship with Mexico and Central America seem to be, for now, “urgent” and furthermore, “understandable” priority for the new administration.
“In South America, without a doubt, the main problem is Venezuela, and I think it is of such a dimension that it will not be possible to ignore it. And I also feel that as soon as that the authorities within the State Department are appointed, I believe that the fluidity and attention to the cases of the region will be much more important,” Vecchio said in an interview with the Voice of America.
According to the politician, Biden’s agenda on immigration, human rights and even ecological issues coincides with his cause. The bipartisan support in Congress for Guaidó’s interim government is another strength that stands out. Vecchio hopes that the “multilateral effort” announced by the Biden Administration will help increase attention. The other big questions are when and how that will happen.
Nicolás Maduro has expressed his intention to dialogue with the United States, but this offer has been publicly declined by the State Department.
Use resources recovered from the corruption of the dictatorship to attend humanitarian emergency
At high-level meetings, Vecchio plans to present a proposal to create a fund managed “transparently” by international organizations and the US government to use money confiscated from “the regime’s corruption” to serve the humanitarian needs of Venezuelans.
Although the initiative has been promoted since 2019, it failed to be implemented under the last administration. The Venezuelan believes that the Biden government “has a great opportunity to create this fund that establishes the TRUTH law.”
A new era of sanctions?
The White House assures that it is “reviewing” the sanctions policy, but the director for the Western Hemisphere of the White House National Security Council, Juan González, advanced in an interview with the Univisión network that lifting the sanctions “is not one of the priorities right now.”
Any measure that you want to adjust must be focused on achieving the objective, which is to achieve a democratic transition,” said Vecchio.
Regarding the economic sanctions on the oil sector, the diplomatic representative considers that they were not imposed on a “whim”.
“There are more than 20 cases of corruption that involve PDVSA as a money laundering institution, it is not that they are there on a whim, they are there because Maduro has used that institution not as an oil company, but as a money laundering company, to pay graft to officials who use the North American financial system and that link them to cases of illicit activities,” he said.
A report by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated in January that “probably [the sanctions] contributed to a steeper decline in the Venezuelan economy.”
For the State Department, “the economic problems in Venezuela began many years before the US sanctions were imposed,” as Namita Biggins, Spanish spokesperson for the State Department, stressed to the VOA in February.
The promise of TPS
Vecchio hopes that “in a matter of weeks” the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelans can be approved -through the executive route-, something that Biden promised to do in the first hundred days of his government.
He affirmed that the migration protection mechanism “is a measure for which we have fought since day one of our administration, to guarantee the permanence of Venezuelans here while the freedom of Venezuela is conquered. The TPS is a necessary and urgent measure that we have promoted in a bipartisan way before the administration and the US Congress.”
The immigration benefit could benefit more than 200,000 undocumented Venezuelans in the country, protecting them from deportation and offering them the opportunity to obtain a temporary work permit.
As of the closing of this note, the VOA had not received a response from the White House to verify if there is already an established date to promulgate the TPS to Venezuelans residing in the United States, however, an administration official commented to the VOA that the president “is very committed” to signing this measure, which is “under review.”