Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro traveled to Russia in hopes of securing political and financial assistance from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although Venezuela is currently in arrears to the tune of billions of dollars to Russia, Putin voiced strong support for his South American counterpart when the two met on Wednesday.
Acknowledging that Moscow realizes "the situation in Venezuela remains dire," Putin told Maduro: "We support your efforts to achieve mutual understanding in society and all your actions aimed at normalizing relations with the opposition."
Putin also said, "We condemn any terrorist action; any attempts to change the situation by force."
'We are winning'
Maduro, who was reelected in a disputed vote in May, told Putin: "We have faced various threats and aggression but we have learned how to deal with them. We are standing firm, we are winning."
The situation for Maduro, however, is far graver as he is dealing with severe civil unrest, massive medical and food shortages and 1 million percent inflation. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that Venezuela's hyperinflation could go as high as 10 million percent in 2019. Some 3 million Venezuelans have fled their country as a result of the ongoing crisis
Struggling to pay debts
Venezuela's once-thriving oil industry has fallen on very hard times since being nationalized under Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez. It is currently struggling to maintain shipments to Russia, China and Cuba to service its debt with those countries.
Russian oil giant Rosneft is heavily invested in Venezuela's faltering oil fields. Rosneft CEO and Putin ally Igor Sechin was in Caracas last week to implore upon Maduro the importance of fulfilling his country's commitments to Moscow.
Eric Farnsworth of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA), a Washington-based think tank, summed up the difficult nature of Maduro's situation: "Once people realize Maduro can't deliver on what he promised, they may lose interest in supporting him. I think that's what he fears more than anything else."
js/sms (AFP, AP, dpa)