NICOLÁS MADURO, the former bus driver chosen by Hugo Chávez to lead Venezuela after his death, has been struggling to consolidate his position since being declared the victor in a questionable presidential election in April. With the economy stalling, inflation spiking and shortages spreading, the new president appears at a loss about how to respond, other than to blame domestic and foreign enemies. Nor has he been able to overcome a serious split in the Chavista movement between his own, Cuba-backed clique and another based in the military.

One government, however, has chosen to toss Mr. Maduro a lifeline: the United States. Last week Secretary of State John F. Kerry took time to meet Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua on the sidelines of an Organization of American States meeting, then announced that the Obama administration would like to “find a new way forward” with the Maduro administration and “quickly move to the appointment of ambassadors.” Mr. Kerry even thanked Mr. Maduro for “taking steps toward this encounter” — words that the state-run media trumpeted.

Continue reading →