Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Mac Margolis

Venezuela Scrapes the Bottom of Oil Barrel Diplomacy

For a price, the country's regional allies may be willing to shift their allegiance.
Running on empty.

Running on empty.

Photographer: Orlando Serra/AFP/Getty Images

Hand it to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. His country's streets are choked in tear gas. Scenes of his guard beating heads and shooting protesters are lighting up social media. The nation boasting the world's biggest oil reserves is importing crude, skirting default and bleeding regime loyalists. And yet Maduro is reveling in a self-proclaimed "diplomatic victory."

He has a point. On June 22, at the Organization of American States 47th general assembly in Cancun, Venezuela's envoys walked out and still managed to turn back an initiative by regional critics to admonish Maduro for trashing what remains of Venezuelan democracy. Not even the anodyne motion urging the region's ranking authoritarian to "reconsider" installing a regime-friendly constituent assembly to write a Castro-styled constitution passed. And so Latin America's most important diplomatic consort adjourned in a silence that only an autocrat could love. "Venezuela is still taking advantage of the fact that countries in the region lack the conditions to launch coordinated actions," said José Botafogo Gonçalves, a former Brazilian diplomat.