Venezuela: The Outside Powers

Venezuela: The Outside Powers

The internal drama of Venezuela's politics is frothy enough – two men claim to be president but neither is able to dislodge the other even as the country suffers the worst peacetime economic crisis in modern history.

But there are also a number of outside players with a keen interest in what happens to a government that controls the world's largest known oil reserves. Just yesterday, the US and Russia traded sharp words again over each other's involvement in the country.

Russia backs embattled strongman Nicolás Maduro, while the US supports opposition leader Juan Guaidó, whom Washington and dozens of other democracies recognize as interim president.

Here's a rundown of the major external players in the Venezuelan crisis, who may ultimately determine the outcome of what happens there.


Russia: Moscow has billions of dollars in loans and energy deals in Venezuela that the Kremlin wants to protect or to use as leverage with a post-Maduro government. But mainly, Russia objects in principle to American-backed regime change anywhere in the world and sees another easy chance in Venezuela — as in Syria — to complicate life for the US in a place where Washington is ambivalent about how deeply to get involved. Russia has even sent troops to Venezuela. In the end, Moscow doesn't necessarily need Maduro as such – but the Kremlin will insist on a decisive say in whatever happens next.

Cuba: Havana supports Caracas for ideological reasons, sure, but also for practical ones: free shipments of Venezuelan oil remain an important lifeline for the Cuban economy. In exchange, Cuba has for years sent doctors, teachers and — crucially — intelligence agents to support its socialist soulmates in Caracas. If Maduro falls, the flow of oil could stop, putting the island's beleaguered, state-run economy in jeopardy.

United States: Old-school cold warriors like National Security Adviser John Bolton see a chance to take down a major socialist power and to pressure perennial foes Cuba and Nicaragua, which depend on Venezuelan oil to survive. But there's also a domestic political angle: Trump wants to secure the votes of conservative Cuban and Venezuelan voters in Florida, a key swing state, in the 2020 US presidential election. Being tough on Maduro is one part of that while bashing Democrats' plans to expand the social safety net as "Venezuela-style socialism" is the other.

China: A decade ago, Venezuela was the largest Latin American recipient of Chinese financing and investment, but Beijing has cut back on that in recent years as Maduro's policies wrecked the economy and cratered the production of oil — the main collateral for Chinese loans. Beijing still backs Maduro against what it sees as an illegitimate, US-backed effort to unseat him. But China has also reportedly put out feelers to Guaidó's camp as well, and he's directly called on China for its support. China wants to make sure it can get its loans paid back, and is willing to do business pragmatically with whoever runs Venezuela next.
Two Black women hugging, with one woman pictured smiling

With half of all Black Americans excluded from the financial mainstream and Black-owned small businesses blocked from funding, we're working with city leaders and providing digital access to essential financial tools for immediate impact in Black communities. Learn more.

Demonstrators hold flags and placards as they march to protest against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions and the mandatory vaccination in Vienna, Austria, December 4, 2021.

40,000: At least 40,000 people joined protests in Vienna on Saturday against new lockdowns and vaccine requirements, the second week in a row the city has seen mass demonstrations of this kind. Amid a surge in new cases, the Austrian government announced that a nationwide vaccine mandate would come into effect on February 1.

More Show less
The Graphic Truth: Who misses tourism the most?

Countries that rely hugely on tourism and travel dollars have already been reeling from the pandemic, as lockdowns and new COVID variants cause people to avoid airports and stay home. Now the omicron variant is scuttling holiday travel plans that many were hoping would infuse fresh cash into their struggling economies. So who is most concerned about these disruptions to the tourism industry? We take a look at economies that saw the biggest boost from tourism dollars from 2008-2019, and how that changed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

Ian Bremmer interviews economist Larry Summers on GZERO World. Summers served as the Treasury Secretary under President Clinton and as the Director of the National Economic Council under Preisdent Obama. He sounded the alarm bell about inflation back in February 2021 when few people were talking about it. Part of the reason prices are rising so much today, Summers says, is because the Biden administration made the political decision to do "too much stimulus," a big mistake in his view. Summers discusses how supply chain problems are also contributed to the highest levels of inflation in the US in 30 years.

More Show less
Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2020 China's Peng Shuai in action during the match against Japan's Nao Hibino

The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.

More Show less

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

How is Europe dealing with new omicron version of the pandemic?

Well, I mean the big issue isn't really that one, the big issue if you see the havoc that is created in several European countries at the moment is the delta. The delta is making impressive strides, particularly in countries that have a slightly lower vaccination rates. So that's the number one fight at the moment. And then we must of course prepare for the omicron as well.

More Show less
Caravan of Taliban soldiers with guns held upright

Listen: With the US gone and the Taliban back in control, Afghanistan faces a long winter. Mounting food insecurity and a crumbling economy have left many Afghans feeling abandoned. The international community could help solve this humanitarian crisis, but can they trust the Taliban?

Ian Bremmer sat down with journalist and author Ahmed Rashid to learn more about the Taliban today. Few people know more about the Taliban than Rashid, who wrote the book on the group — literally. In the months after 9/11, his critically acclaimed 2000 study Taliban became a go-to reference as the US geared up to invade Afghanistan and knock the militant group from power. Twenty years later, how much has the group changed since the days of soccer-stadium executions, television bans, and blowing up world heritage sites?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What are the DSA and the DMA?

Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal