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Diana Villalbazo

Why is Venezuela a turning point in Latin America?

- Venezuela's relations with emerging powers in recent years have increased. What does this mean on the world stage?

Why is Venezuela a turning point in Latin America?

Venezuela, along with the long list of Latin American dictatorships, has had various social, economic, and cultural crises throughout its history. However, since its independence, in 1821, they have seriously increased through military governments, coups d'état and political instability.

Particularly, the position that the southern country occupies in the area has become extremely important on the international stage since it represents socialist overtones in the American continent and this is a latent concern at present for the greatest world power within it. In recent decades, the Maduro regime has caused a lack of political control in Venezuela that has never been seen before.

The internal conflict has reached spheres of global interest due to the consequences of various levels such as Latin America, the continental one, through the United States, and the involvement of other actors such as the European Union, China and Russia. In this sense, the events within the country are placed before the world and hemispheric expectation by virtue of the decline in the socialisms of the 21st century and the expansion regarding the humanitarian crisis, which directly and indirectly impacts its neighbors. [1]

Among the external effects that the internal crises in Venezuela entail, are the spread of organized crime and drug trafficking, which grew especially during the term of Hugo Chávez, who assumed power on February 2, 1999 after winning the subsequent presidential elections. to the coups d'état that he had previously organized. [2]

Chávez's presidency began with two referendums that allowed the modification of the Constitution by maintaining as a preamble the protocolization of the new goals such as the reform of a democratic, participatory and protagonist society, in addition to introducing the popular referendum with the objective of ensuring the interests of the poor population. On the other hand, the reforms added to the Constitution granted the right to seek re-election and close Congress, contributing to the Venezuelan dictatorship. [3]

  • Mural to Hugo Chávez after his dictatorship. Source: Foreign Affairs. March 28, 2013. AFP PHOTO/JUAN BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images).*

Through constitutional modifications, Chávez managed to be reelected on several occasions by expressing dictatorial characteristics, for which the country began to mobilize little by little until it managed to capture international attention as a result of the economic decisions that were made. This is how, in 2011, the United States implemented sanctions against the state oil company of Venezuela – Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. - due to the respective support of the energy sector in Iran. [4]

In 2013, the dictator of the Bolivarian Republic died of cancer, therefore Maduro – then vice president – took office as interim president. This was the beginning of a great decline in the country, since, although it was heavily involved in great socioeconomic instability, this increased the position of Venezuela as a worrying and important area in Latin America.

The actions that Maduro has carried out up to now place a strong concern on the international situation, which have been answered mainly in the speeches and actions of the world powers. The question of asking ourselves what destiny holds for Venezuela as a strategic zone in the world debate implies the collective historical memory that he maintains with the emerging powers and the approach of a new cold war.

Why is China interested in relations with Venezuela?

The Bolivarian Republic contains the largest oil reserves in the world and is located in a territory considered unstable due to the enormous multifactorial crises that are maintained within it. This, coupled with the growing development of China and its influence over the country, has led to the relationship that is currently maintained in which it supports the efforts made by Maduro in relation to the maintenance of sovereignty, independence and national stability as Hua Chunying maintains.

The relationship between the two countries dates back to the early 2000s, since it was during the period that their interests coincided and Hugo Chávez together with Jiang Zemin obtained an alliance based on economic objectives specifically provided by oil for financing. The "black gold", as it is also known, became the basis of the Venezuelan economy since then, they depended on the inflation rate, consequently with the variations in the international market the country did not conceive of stability. [5]

The great commercial alliance that China represented for Venezuela was increasingly evident through the loans that were granted in exchange for oil. However, Chávez's death affected the internal sphere and the country's foreign policy changed with the drop in oil prices, the sociopolitical crises reached catastrophic degrees and had repercussions on the series of agreements with the Asian country, consequently to the impossibility to repay the acquired loans. [6]

In this sense, Xi Jinping – current president of China – places his pieces on the geostrategic chessboard by manifesting his influence behind the United States, which represents South America. The political-economic system that governs both countries is similar in some aspects, which is why it is considered a way, not only to create economic alliances, but also to influence the establishment of allies within the American continent.

Visit of the Venezuelan president to Beijing in 2015. Source: BBC News.

Among the various interests of China over the South American country through the loans granted, is the establishment of oil chains that promote Chinese exports and provide for the international expansion of the Chinese yuan, in addition to strengthening relations with countries in South America. Loans with the aim of preserving the Bolivarian-Socialist revolution have increased Venezuela's dependence on oil, since they are granted in exchange for future deliveries of crude.

The investment policy by Chinese institutions in the Bolivarian Republic has been strengthened in recent decades with the creation of organizations such as the Chinese-Venezuelan Joint Financing Fund and the Long-term Large Volume Fund, with which it is possible to reproduce the mechanisms for the follow-up of the Chinese-Venezuelan economic agreements. In this regard, the benefits of the Asian colossus are intended to be used to finance infrastructure and social programs for development in the oil sector.

Beyond the economic sphere, Venezuela has been China's entry into South America, which creates a new geopolitical axis by reducing the historical dependence that it maintained with the United States and European countries through financial cooperation, especially during the reconfiguration of their relationship throughout 2015 to the present. The strategy that China operates entails the existence of energy security, the opening of foreign policy towards Latin America and its advance as an emerging power on the global stage. [7]

What does Russia want in the country?

The relationship between Russia and Venezuela can be studied from various angles due to the complexity it implies. During the mandates of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, agreements with the ex-Soviet country on arms matters have been intensified, specifically with war planes that are of concern to the United States due to the danger that it could mean regarding the escalation of the Venezuelan conflict. ; in addition to the increase in humanitarian support granted by countries such as Turkey, India, China and Russia.

It should be noted that among the suspicions of arming the Bolivarian Republic by the United States, was the creation of military bases and the constant risk that a war between the two countries could represent that would be supported by Russia.

The internal disputes in Venezuela transcend to a sphere of a global nature in a multipolar scenario in which geopolitical debates are carried out through soft power and world leadership. In this framework, the political instability presented by the two interim presidents in Venezuela - Juan Guaidó and Nicolás Maduro - is disputed on United Nations stages, in which statements have been made by the United States in alliance with the leader of the resistance Guaidó and by part of Vladimir Putin towards President Nicolás Maduro.

One of the main issues that Russia is looking for in helping Maduro is persistence in the fight against Washington with the aim of challenging its role in hegemony. In the economic aspect, a series of loans have been made by state companies such as Rosneft, which acquired 49.9% control of Citgo - a Venezuelan oil company in the United States - to increase its presence in matters of interest in order to safeguard its investment in oil companies. [8]

Meeting of Nicolás Maduro with Vladimir Putín in 2019. Source: The New York Times.

From the mandate of Hugo Chávez, in the UN General Assembly in 2000 the first meeting with the presidency of Vladimir Putin was held, which marked the beginning of the relationship with Venezuela based on military, energy and mainly geopolitical foundations that would grant Moscow's entry into Latin America. In particular, the Russian-Venezuelan relationship remained strong due to the coincidence of positions on the world order. [9]

On the other hand, in recent times various implications have been developed in the globalized scenario where Russian actions evolved from diplomatic talks to fostering more direct assistance through the arrival of Russian aircraft and personnel. Clearly, these actions were conceived by the North American country as an act of constant defiance and sought to eradicate Juan Guaidó through the defense, considered as interim president in accordance with articles 233, 333 and 350 of the Venezuelan Constitution. [10]

Currently the situation in the Bolivarian Republic and its positioning on the international stage is important, particularly due to the degree of significance it occupies as a strategic zone and area of influence for world powers. The dispute over the Venezuelan territory transcends social, economic and, mainly, geopolitical factors.

What reaction has the United States had?

Faced with the constant development of emerging powers such as China and the constant challenge of Russia on the international scene, Venezuela has been the subject of a turning point within Latin America, since it represents the socialism of the 21st century at the back door of the world hegemon. The multipolarity of the international system and the emergence of international political actors with great relevance such as the Bolivarian Republic have caused an increase in tensions between these countries.

The US position in the face of the growing alliances of the South American country with Russia and China, become of constant concern as a result of the close economic and political relationship in recent years by the former Soviet country with Venezuela. The increasing armament in the country has caused concern about a future Russian attack based on the military bases installed in South America and the cooperation agreements between Venezuela, Russia and Nicaragua. [eleven]

Throughout Barack Obama's presidency, Russia's expansionism in the Latin American region did not mean a relevant concern, since it was analyzed as a low-level threat and even the Secretary of State – John Kerry – affirmed that the Monroe Doctrine did not would be exercised, so Russian influence in the area would not be curbed in terms of international cooperation, since it was not considered that Russia was seeking to attack the United States or countries sympathetic to its ideology. [12]

Venezuelan interim president and US president. Source: CCN News.

For its part, the Trump government, throughout the sessions in the Security Council of the United Nations Organization on the debate on the Venezuelan humanitarian situation, has opted for military intervention against Maduro and has reiterated its full support for the resistance. of Guaidó. This is in contrast to the Russian statements that remain in favor of the regime of Hugo Chávez's successor - Nicolás Maduro - and seriously threatened military action if the increase in quality of life that migration to the country indirectly caused was not resorted to. North American.

Finally, the statements issued by the current president of the United States – Joe Biden – regarding foreign policy with Venezuela are characterized by diplomacy. Biden has affirmed that he does not agree with the actions committed in the southern country, however, he considers that it is possible to reach an agreement through dialogue with Maduro.


    [1] Malamud, Carlos. 2019. “La crisis de Venezuela y el tablero geopolítico internacional”. Real Instituto el cano (noviembre): 25 de febrero.

    [2] Centro de Documentación, Información y Análisis. 2010. Hugo Chávez. En Venezuela y su Socialismo del siglo XXI. México: Dirección de Servicios de Investigación y Análisis.

    [3] Idem.

    [4] CNN. 2019. Guía básica para entender a la Venezuela de hoy, un país en crisis. CCN Latinoamérica, 4 de julio, sección Venezuela.

    [5] Solimano, Irene. 2015. “Las relaciones económicas entre América del Sur y la República Popular China en el siglo XXI: entre las expectativas de la diversificación comercial y la reprimarización productiva. Consideraciones a partir de los casos de Argentina, Brasil y Venezuela (2002 – 2014)”. Tesis de licenciatura., Facultad de Ciencia Política y Relaciones Internacionales.

    [6] Idem.

    [7] Brandt, Carlos H: y Piña, Carlos Eduardo. “Las relaciones Venezuela – China (2000 – 2018): entre la cooperación y la dependencia”. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. (s/d).

    [8] Ibidem.

    [9] Rodríguez, Pedro. 2019. Rusia y Venezuela: la alianza geopolítica que preocupa a Estados Unidos. Instituro Español de Estudios Estratégicos (mayo): 21 de mayo.

    [10] Ibidem.

    [11] Ghotme, Rafat, y «La presencia de Rusia en el Caribe: hacia un nuevo equilibrio del poder regional.» Reflexión Política 17 (2015): 78-92. Redalyc.

    [12] Ibidem.

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Villalbazo, Diana. “¿Por qué Venezuela es un punto de inflexión en Latinoamérica?.” CEMERI, 13 sept. 2022,