President’s world tour elicited loans and strategy for oil prices, but Venezuela remains under threat from US and right-wing forces
Supporters of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution thronged the streets of Caracas at the weekend to welcome back President Nicolas Maduro after a successful two-week international tour.
Crowds danced to live salsa bands, waving brightly coloured balloons and cheering as Mr Maduro arrived at the presidential palace, driving himself at the head of the motorcade.
Central Caracas was lined with banners featuring pictures of the president shaking hands with world leaders above the tagline “Successful tour.”
His visits to China, Russia and five oil-producing countries had been designed to win new loans and support for action to stop the collapse of crude prices.
The decline has been disastrous for Venezuela’s economy, which gets 96 per cent of its export revenue from oil sales.
Mr Maduro claims to have achieved what was needed, referring to an infusion of investments from China and a new financial alliance with Qatar.
However members of the oil cartel Opec, notably the Gulf states headed by Saudi Arabia, have so far stood firm in rejecting Venezuela’s plea to cut production.
While he was out of the country, state-run supermarkets implemented a new rationing system to curb out-of-control queues while the right-wing opposition stepped up its rhetoric for immediate change, amid hints of a return to last year’s violent protests.
On arriving at the presidential palace, Mr Maduro delivered a short speech attacking US sanctions and applauding the steps his government had taken in his absence, including arresting some young protesters who set up street barricades.
He denounced the “parasitic” private sector and blamed enemies of the government for intentionally blocking essential supplies.
First Justice party leader Henrique Capriles, who had faded from the limelight after distancing himself from last year’s violent “Exit” protests, suggested last week that ongoing shortages and low oil prices offered “a perfect storm for changing the government.”
He urged Venezuelans to mobilise in the streets, saying: “We don’t have to silence our voice. Now is the moment to express it.”
However, his continued insistence on non-violent action contradicts the “Exit 2” strategy floated by People’s Will leaders Maria Machado and Leopoldo Lopez, confirming a clear divide in opposition tactics.