Before the United States sought to remove socialist leader Nicolas Maduro from power, he sought out a top Democratic donor to the tune of $6 million.
The socialist government took on Washington lawyer Marcia Wiss in a wider, failed effort to avoid oil sanctions, according to a new report from the Associated Press.
$3 million for legal services
Maduro has faced international pressure to step aside that mounted under then-President Donald Trump, who took a hardline approach, moving to squeeze the socialist leader with sanctions and recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate head of state in 2019, as ABC News reported.
Before efforts to oust Maduro got underway, his government sought to avoid sanctions on oil assets, seeking out a former Republican lawmaker as well as Wiss for that purpose, according to “three people familiar with the deals” who spoke to the AP anonymously.
Wiss, a trade lawyer who runs a Washington firm, reportedly entered a $6 million contract with an American subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, in March 2017. The relationship lasted more than a year, and saw roughly $3 million paid out by Venezuela, the AP said.
Wiss denies lobbying for Maduro’s government, however, saying she was limited to performing legal services, although she didn’t share any details. The information was revealed in records filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
“Your information is false and you are being again misled,” she reportedly told the AP.
$1,500 to Biden campaign
Wiss, who is also a Democratic donor, gave $1,500 to Joe Biden’s campaign, the AP noted.
The information about her involvement with Venezuela came to light as PDV USA, now controlled by allies of Guaido, retroactively registered as a foreign agent. The company revealed a $20 million influence campaign by Maduro’s government that was first reported by Foreign Lobby.
The nature and extent of the work Wiss did is unclear, and PDV USA acknowledged that it was not able to “determine whether the scope of work performed under involving political activities as defined under FARA.”
Despite Western backing, Guaido has not been able to remove Maduro, who now controls the nation’s parliament, from power. The European Union recently moved to rescind its recognition of Guaido as interim president, Reuters reported.
Maduro has issued a call to reset America’s relationship with Venezuela under President Biden, although Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called Maduro a “brutal dictator,” according to France 24.