U.S. appears to be playing footsie with Venezuela to save Marxist dictatorship

Is the Obama administration planning to rescue the failing Venezuelan Chavista regime?  With oil prices down by half, the Marxists running Venezuela are running out of money and selling off their crown jewels to raise the cash to pay for essential imports:

U.S. company PBF is buying the Chalmette oil refinery, a “joint venture” between Exxon Mobil and Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. The sale appears to be, at least in part, an attempt by Venezuela to round up some cash quickly, after the country spent large amounts of its reserves in recent months.

As the FT puts it, “The deal, while modest in size, should offer some minor reprieve to Venezuela’s battered coffers.” But a sale like this doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the country’s future, no matter what short-term relief it might bring.

It would seem like the perfect time to tighten he screws and force the regime into fair, internationally supervised elections.  But instead, the Obama diplomatic initiative looks like “dancing with another dictatorship,” in Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s words:

What was a senior U.S. diplomat doing in Haiti recently meeting with a Venezuelan politician who is reportedly being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for running a giant cocaine-smuggling operation?

That’s the question raised by photos that surfaced on the Internet last week showing State Department counselor Tom Shannon posing with Venezuelan National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello in Port-au-Prince. Also in the photos: Haitian President Michel Martelly, the Venezuelan foreign minister, and a French chavista with Venezuelan citizenship who is currently posted in Washington

The most plausible answer is that the Obama administration is once again working to save a police state that is about to collapse under its own weight. The trouble is that every time team Obama sits down at the poker table with thugs—think Russia, Iran and Cuba—it gets cleaned out. The region’s democracy advocates are right to be nervous.

This is a dicey sort of guy to be meeting with in private:

Mr. Cabello also may have a personal interest in talking. On May 18 The Wall Street Journal cited a Justice Department official who said Mr. Cabello is “a main target” in what the Journal described as a probe into charges that Venezuela has become “a global hub for cocaine trafficking and money laundering.” Mr. Cabello denies any link to drug trafficking.

Marxist narco-gangsters!  Of course, we should be meeting with them out of the limelight.  What could possibly go wrong?

The decline in oil prices (brought by fracking, which the Obama administration is not enthusiastic about) has handed the U.S. a huge amount of leverage over Iran, Venezuela, and other oil dictatorships.  But as the Iran nuclear talks show, Obama’s policy is to cave in at the negotiating table.

There is no hard evidence about the nature of these talks.  But suspicion is the appropriate attitude to take.  If only we had a president who wanted to roll back evil dictatorships!

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