First, what the hell was Maduro doing at Sharm El-Sheikh? He could go there because he did not risk to be detained. Hopefully his two airbus will not be forced to land in a country where there is no dictator like Egypt's Al Sisi. And yes, Maduro went with two big CO2 producing airplanes to Egypt whereas normal head of states go there in a single small plane or, god forbid, fly commercial. The COP 27 is set to deal with climate change and environment. Maduro blamed capitalism in his speech conveniently forgetting to mention that Venezuela has been a major producer of oil for capitalism, under Chavez in particular. He also forgot to mention the considerable environmental damage that the wrecked state oil company PDVSA has done under his tenure, in particular. And never mind the destruction of Venezuela's share of Amazonia due to savage gold prospection, directed by the Venezuelan army in particular.
But I digress, back to the handshake. It seems that there was a part of improvisation and part of manipulation in that fortuitous (?) encounter. From one of the videos I saw it seemed clear that the president of Guinea Bissau was sort of directing Macron towards Maduro. Guinea Bissau is one of the stopping points for drug trafficking between Venezuela and Europe. Just saying. So they met and talked for about one minute. Not to be accused of cheap anti Maduro I will give you the pro regime feed of Telesur:
#COP27 | Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and France's President Emmanuel Macron hold a dialogue at the 27th United Nations Climate Summit in Egypt. pic.twitter.com/XLHKOODxMq— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) November 7, 2022
Now the question is why Macron was so "friendly". Before I go on let me reassure everyone reading this, mostly if there is by happenstance a chavista: the profound distaste of Macron (or almost any western leader) towards Maduro has not changed. In fact it is probably worse than ever now that Maduro is trying to gain leverage with the little bit of oil Venezuela could produce soon. Blackmail by any other name. Thus what we witnessed there is real politik at its worst, just like Biden visiting the journalist slayer meat processer Mohammed ben Salman (little good it did him but well...)
The Ukraine war happened; energy transition cannot be done in a day; Russia is to be punished; oil and gas must be found somewhere. Even though Venezuela is no condition to double its meager oil output in a year, it is still necessary to ingratiate yourself with the Venezuelan regime since the boycott of Russia will go on for as long as Putin will hold. And lo and behold, the French surely must know about the maneuvering of Chevron to recoup its lost investment, all this supported by the Biden administration willing to trade prisoners with Maduro. Macron had to run before France's oil giant Total is locked out of a possible reopening of Venezuela. By the way, Total has also a lot of investment to recoup in Venezuela.
So that explains why Macron allowed himself or was forced to be seen with Maduro. I will also remind folks that the Maduro regime was very abusive a year ago with the French embassy in Caracas, cutting off for weeks water and electricity. But that humiliation seems to have been forgotten. Now, about the consequences.
Macron has started getting flack from French press, after years of saying that Maduro is a criminal (Maduro is still a criminal, a hand shake cannot cure this, it just dirties the other hand). Of course, ever the chavista hard core supporter Jean Luc Melenchon went with his own gleeful tweet saying that oil made people [Macron] polite. Macron just trashed one of the main political points against the extreme left Melenchon which was his inability to condemn human rights abuse in Venezuela.
But the bad press of Macron really does not register much in France. After all it did not make it in the nightly news that I eagerly awaited yesterday. Only today some comments, not favorable, started appearing though l'Opinion thinks that it was a trap set for Macron who dealt with the best it could.. No, the worse of the whole fiasco is that Maduro got for almost free what he so craved for: recognition, some form of legitimation. That the French president shakes hands with a criminal undoes years of work of US presidents, British prime ministers, German chancellors, etc.
The fact of the matter is that Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed everything causing among other things a panic rush for oil survival [rather than telling the truth to the people about why we must suffer a cold winter at home this year: 1940 heroism is not fashionable anymore]. The big game is barely getting started and for all that we know if given cover we might even see Maduro abandon Putin! Chavismo is venal enough for that if the price is right. Then again Maduro and Putin may be laughing their heads off at Biden and Maduro.
To end this distasteful moment in a sourer note, there is another reason besides oil why Biden and Macron and soon others, are to talk with Maduro. This one has apparently won his fight with the Venezuelan opposition which is more divided than ever. They all coalesced to support Guaido against Maduro 3 years ago. From the start the regime through corruption and violence has managed to divide the opposition to the point that now it offers a sickening panorama to observers. Not only many spend more time attacking Guaido than Maduro, but the opposition looks unable to prepare for upcoming presidential elections that on paper it should win. It is simply dumbfounding seen from DC or Paris.
There may be a vote in a year and yet the opposition is unable to come up with a primary system to pick a unity candidate. We even have the sorry sight of more and more once upon a time believed strong opposition figures meekly calling for the end of sanctions against the higher ups in the regime. And Biden, Macron et al. should get cold this winter to help such a bunch of incompetents? I cannot bring myself to blame them.
added later, further hunting trophies for Maduro
The Portuguese Prime minister with Maduro telling him to visit "'cause we have a lot of Portuguese in Venezuela". Classy....
And finally, here's exchange with @antoniocostaps.— Joshua Goodman (@APjoshgoodman) November 8, 2022
For all of of Maduro's charm offensive, he missed an opportunity to talk up Venezuelan oil when the Portuguese prime minister complained about high energy prices.
"Visit whenever you want. We have lots of Portuguese," he says. pic.twitter.com/xnTIPkMcRU
They glend you good?