Photo: 800noticias.com

Last week, two members of the U.S. Congress visited Caracas and spoke to Nicolás Maduro: Democratic Senator Dirk Durbin of Illinois and Republican Representative Pete Sessions of Texas. The catch is that the two trips were not related, the first trip included quite a busy agenda and the second, was shrouded in secrecy over its purpose.

Sessions, who serves as Chairman of the House Rules Committee, went to Venezuela invited by the Maduro administration and his two-day trip was privately funded, according to a report by AP’s Joshua Goodman. A spokesman for the congressman said that “…it was related to the work Sessions has done over the past year as an intermediary to resolve issues in Venezuela.”

But the reaction to Sessions’s visit in the U.S. has been of surprise, because there was no involvement of the State Department, unlike in the case of Senator Durbin. Also, in Session’s case, about the alleged “peace-making” behind it. Sessions defended himself in an interview with newspaper The Dallas Morning News. (His congressional district is mostly North Dallas).

The reaction to Sessions’s visit in the U.S. has been of surprise, because there was no involvement of the State Department, unlike in the case of Senator Durbin.

The issue also made its way to Sessions’s re-election race and his two challengers are seizing on it.  No wonder that the Texan congressman had to go on television and his state his case better.

Meanwhile, Senator Durbin’s four-day trip to Venezuela went smoothly, without any incident. He spoke to a wide range of people and even witnessed some of the problems Venezuelans face first hand: “I was heartbroken by what I saw and heard, particularly regarding the collapse of the country’s ability to feed and medically care for its people and children.”, Durbin told the AP.

During his stay in Caracas, Durbin visited Joshua Holt, an American man who was arrested in 2016 (along with his wife) and charged with terrorism and espionage. The couple has been imprisoned for almost two years awaiting trial, and there are concerns about their state.

In some meetings, Durbin was joined by Todd Robinson, current chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela. According to our sources, this trip comes as one last effort from Thomas Shannon, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, to push for a more conciliatory policy regarding Venezuela before his retirement takes place once his replacement is confirmed.

But will these two trips make any impact? Not much, says Durbin’s colleague Marco Rubio.

However, Durbin has shown interest in the Venezuelan issue himself: He was one of the three sponsors of a Senate resolution which passed unanimously in February about the crisis. And right after he returned to his home state, he met with a group of Venezuelans in Chicago.

But will these two trips make any impact? Not much, says Durbin’s colleague Marco Rubio.

After these moves from the U.S. Capitol, it’s now up to the White House to show if they will have a larger role in the Venezuelan crisis or if they’ll continue to leave the initiative in the hands of the Lima Group. But first, we’ll have to wait for Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearings to become the new Secretary of State.

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UPDATE: Days after his trip to Venezuela, Senator Durbin took the floor to explain detail of what he saw during his four days stay. He asked for the release of Joshua Holt and his wife and demanded the government to provide “basic standards” to celebrate a proper election including a new CNE and stop using food for political coercion.

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