The time has come to put away your Uncle Sam dart-boards, Silvio Rodriguez CD’s and you “Yankee, Go Home!” shirts. A Red White and Blue dawn has risen over the Ávila!

American love is the future, baby! and I am…so confused.

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Remember how we once were so pissed off at the Imperialist North for wanting to pillage our villages and rape our God-fearing women? It was a huge deal! Back in March, Venezuelan diplomats were recalled from the U.S. for consultations, visa requirements for gringos were imposed, Dick Cheney was declared persona-non-grata, the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela was issued immediate orders to downsize its staff, air-raid drills were held, and an aggressive nation-wide drive to collect ten million signatures rejecting the sanctions was deployed.

“President Barack Obama, in the name of the US imperialist elite, has decided to personally take on the task of defeating my government, intervening in Venezuela, and controlling it from the US!” said a properly incensed Maduro.

Fast-forward to this Saturday July 4th. The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry released a statement from Maduro personally addressed to U.S Secretary of State John Kerry (or, as the missive hilariously has it, “al Excelentísimo Señor Jhon Kerry):

“On behalf of President Nicolás Maduro and the people of Venezuela, allow me to convey to the government of the United States our best wishes on the occasion of the 239th anniversary of your Independence this 4th of July.”

“We recognize the cultural richness of our nations, where identity is forged and the bright dialogue between our peoples is encouraged: the literature of William Faulkner, so akin to the magic of the greatest Latin American novelist Gabriel García Márquez, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain; the music, with its universal language that unites us, from the rhythms that tempered the slave labor in the deep South, and that gave birth to the most sublime and universal musical expressions in Jazz, all the way to the prodigious conductor’s baton of Gustavo Dudamel, who directs the prestigious Orchestra System in our country and is also the Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; as well as our Dancing Devils of Yare, which, after being named as a World Cultural Heritage, have become ambassadors to the cultural syncretism of our people.”

It goes on in that vein.

Placed in the context of our historically festering relations with the U.S., this statement is one step short of Maduro hosting a 4th of July barbecue, complete with a fireworks display over Miraflores.

What the hell happened?!?!

A Reuters piece last week finally settled several months’ worth of rumors about State Dept. official Thomas Shannon’s multiple shady meetings with Parliamentary Chief Diosdado Cabello in Haiti and Caracas.

According to an anonymous State Dept. source, these meetings were part of a deliberate strategy on behalf of the U.S. government to openly court [alleged drug kingpin, per U.S. Justice Dept.] Cabello and engage in “soft diplomacy” with Caracas, in order to prevent Leopoldo López´ death via hunger strike.

That Diosdado was so willing to cooperate with the sworn enemy of the regime, and also able to deliver at least some of what was asked of him (election dates, and a couple of political prisoners freed) speaks to both his desperation before the prospect of a lengthy jail sentence for drug offenses, and to his effective power within the government for getting things done.

The Reuters piece also confirmed that Maduro himself requested an “open channel of communication” with the U.S. back in March, while he was actively hating on the U.S. in public.

Uncle Sam’s new Venezuela rhetoric isn’t quite as florid as Casa Amarilla’s, but the change in tone is obvious. All of a sudden, we were no longer a “threat to national security,” per senior White House Staffers; we became a source of “strong ties of friendship, family, culture, sport, and commerce that bind us together” according to John Kerry’s Independence Day letter.

It seems the U.S. has concluded that stability in Venezuela can only be guaranteed through government channels, and that said channels are disparate. They understand that the opposition, while ideologically “aligned,” is mostly a bystander in this game. They also understand that effectively engaging the Venezuelan power base involves wooing Diosdado.

What’s hard to figure out, though, is exactly how far Tom Shannon and the State Department can really go in speaking for the Justice Department. The gringos have this exotic thing they call “separation of powers” and “prosecutorial independence”: State can’t call off Justice just like that. DEA has committed big time, elite investigators to the Diosdado case, and apparently so has the FBI. Shannon is constrained in what he can offer Diosdado in a way Diosdado himself – who can get Luisa Ortega to do the Macarena on Cadena Nacional with a single phone call, if he’s so minded – could scarcely conceive of.

Maduro’s role in all this remains unclear, as does the full extent (and agenda) of gringo involvement. But the U.S. overture could end up revealing lots about the Maduro/Diosdado power dynamics as they apply to foreign policy, as well as a testing the U.S.’s leadership over other Latin American countries.

I, for one, have a hard time grasping how a recently-accused-of-drug-dealing government official becomes the Venezuelan sweetheart, nay, spokesman, of State Department diplomacy. But if this bizarre exchange of pleasantries somehow means we will have monitored elections, and that neighboring countries like Brazil and Colombia will be pressured into issuing statements of condemnation over Human Rights violations in our country, shouldn’t I be happy?

I´ll tell you what DOES makes me happy: unlimited free refills and Baywatch. God bless the U.S.A.

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