NewsBoris Johnson's Secret Venezuela Trip to Discuss Ukraine and Relations

Boris Johnson's Secret Venezuela Trip to Discuss Ukraine and Relations

Boris Johnson flew to Venezuela. Secret meeting with Nicolas Maduro.
Boris Johnson flew to Venezuela. Secret meeting with Nicolas Maduro.
Images source: © Getty Images | Les Kasyanov

1:22 PM EDT, March 11, 2024

The Sunday Times reports that former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson secretly visited Venezuela to meet with its autocratic leader, Nicolas Maduro. They discussed several topics, including the war in Ukraine.

According to the British newspaper, Johnson traveled to Venezuela on a private jet during a vacation in the Dominican Republic. He spent less than a day in the country, discussing concerns that Venezuela might aid Russia, its close ally, by providing weapons or military support, due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Johnson aimed to discuss normalizing relations with the United Kingdom, which does not recognize Maduro’s administration as legitimate. According to The Sunday Times, these discussions included Venezuela holding free and fair presidential elections this year and easing tensions with Guyana, a former British colony. The dispute over the oil and mineral-rich Essequibo region, claimed by Venezuela and constituting two-thirds of Guyana's territory, led to a British naval dispatch last month, which Maduro called an act of hostility.

Such diplomatic talks between Johnson and Maduro are unusual given the current state of UK-Venezuela relations and the general uncertainty of Western ties with a Venezuela that supports Russian President Vladimir Putin and has the world’s largest oil reserves.

Was the British Foreign Secretary aware of the trip?

Johnson informed David Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, about his visit and consulted with Colin Dick, the British chargé d'affaires in Caracas, on key issues to discuss with Maduro. A Foreign Office source revealed that Johnson notified Cameron via SMS en route. Since these were informal discussions, no official permission was needed.

Johnson has not disclosed who initiated the talks or their exact motives. However, his spokesperson highlighted that the trip was privately funded, with no costs incurred by the British or Venezuelan governments. Despite Johnson's longstanding view of Maduro as a dictator who violates human rights, The Sunday Times indicated that Johnson's message focused on British expectations in what was described as a "one-sided" conversation.

Johnson advocates for Ukraine’s support

The meeting with Maduro is believed to stem from Johnson's efforts to rally support for Ukraine. This initiative seems to be gaining traction with the current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, who finds Johnson’s international engagements beneficial in reducing his domestic political influence.

Shortly after his trip to the Dominican Republic, Johnson visited Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the second anniversary of the Russian invasion. He has also urged Donald Trump and leaders from African and South American countries to support Ukraine should he return to the presidency.

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