Amid a breakdown in relations and absence of US diplomats in Venezuela, Washington has named its first ambassador for the South American country for the first time in a decade. However he will carry out his duties from the capital of neighboring Colombia, Bogotá.
James Story’s nomination as the Venezuelan ambassador was confirmed by a US Senate voice vote. Relations between the US and Venezuela have had a long, rocky past that includes President Donald Trump’s administration winning an indictment against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro as an alleged narco-terrorist.
But Joe Biden’s win could be a new chapter in the two countries’ relationship as experts have predicted that the president-elect might move away from Trump’s hard-line approach of isolating Maduro.
Story, 50, a South Carolina native is a career diplomat nominated by Trump in May and he has been serving as the embassy’s charge d’affairs, the diplomat who heads a mission in the absence of an ambassador.
His foreign service’ career has taken him to Mexico, Brazil, Mozambique and Afghanistan. He will likely play a key role helping guide US policy on Venezuela during the transition of President-elect Joe Biden and he will carry out the job from the capital of neighboring Colombia.
The two countries haven’t exchanged ambassadors since 2010, when relations first started to fray under the late President Hugo Chávez. The two nations totally broke diplomatic ties last year, each withdrawing its diplomats shortly after Washington backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s legitimate leader.
US leads a coalition of dozens of nations that rejected Maduro following his election in 2018 to a second term in a vote widely considered fraudulent because the most popular opposition leaders were banned from running.
US has heavily sanctioned Maduro, his inner circle and the state-run oil firm, attempting to isolate them. The Trump administration offered a US$ 15 million bounty for Maduro’s arrest after a US court indicted him on drug charges.
Experts say heavy sanctions have failed to remove Maduro from power, opening Venezuela to US competitors like China, Russia and Iran, while making life harder for millions of residents of the country.