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They reveal that the head of a Government reconstruction unit held meetings in Caracas to consider UK involvement in the South American country’s energy sector. Redacted papers released to Declassified via a Freedom of Information request include a record of the meetings involving the Foreign Office’s Venezuela Reconstruction Unit (VRU).
It was established in 2019, the same year Britain recognised opposition figure Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president.
Britain’s move came in the wake of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro accusing Mr Guaidó of plotting to spark an armed confrontation aimed at toppling him.
The power struggle came after the country’s National Assembly declared Mr Maduro’s re-election in 2018 invalid.
According to Declassified, the documents reveal details of visits to Caracas and suggest the nature of the UK’s “reconstruction” plans.
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Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, delivers a State of the Union address in Caracas.
Mr Guaidó travelled to the UK in January 2020, in a bid to shore up international support and meet with UK officials, including then Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
The next month, the former British ambassador to Venezuela, John Saville, who headed up the VRU, went to Venezuela.
Declassified reports suggest he then convened a “VRU event”, which was attended by British ambassador Andrew Soper and eight unnamed officials, including one from the UK’s Joint Intelligence Organisation.
The Foreign Office told Declassified it holds no formal write up or note of the event.
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Juan Guaido, president of the National Assembly, declared himself as the leader of Venezuela.
Anti-government protesters clash with security forces in Caracas in 2019.
Two more meetings were arranged on February 11 and 12 “to inform the delivery of a Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability (JACS) for Venezuela”.
JACS, according to the Government, is a “strategic assessment used to underpin UK National Security Council Strategies”.
The first day of the JACS meetings identified “worst case and most likely scenarios (political, humanitarian, security and regional)”, in order to reach “consensus on likely implications for [Her Majesty’s Government] in regards to particular scenarios”, Declassified reports.
Day two of the meetings focused on “UK involvement in the energy sector” of Venezuela. However, the full agenda remains classified for reasons of “national security”.
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Supporters of President Nicolas Maduro form a line before the Presidential Palace in 2019.
After the VRU came to light, foreign minister Wendy Morton told parliament it was made up of a small team, consisting of a head and three part-time members, including an external consultant.
She added: “The Unit has visited Venezuela in order to understand the challenges and determine how the UK might help. The UK Ambassador ensured the regime [was] aware of the visit and spoke publicly about the Unit and its staff.”
Jonathan Allen, the UK chargé d’affaires to the United Nations, claimed in May 2020 that the unit had visited Venezuela twice and had obtained visas via the Embassy of the Maduro regime in London.
He said the unit had diplomatic engagement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Maduro regime.
An anti government soldier seen with his machine gun taken up position ready for battle in 2019.
The Venezuelan government dismissed the claim, complaining at the UN that only after news broke about the unit did the UK government acknowledge its existence while attempting to make excuses and “justify the unjustifiable”.
Declassified claims that it is not clear whether the government in Caracas was told Mr Saville was visiting as the head of a unit dedicated to reconstructing the Venezuelan economy and convening high-level meetings about UK involvement in the country’s energy sector.
To date, the Foreign Office has not provided evidence that it informed the Venezuelan government about its activities.
The Freedom of Information response shows Mr Saville noting: “I think with regret that I should decline the comfort of the [UK embassy] Residence.”
Declassified asked the Foreign Office if it made the Venezuelan government aware of discussions in Caracas in February 2020 about UK involvement in Venezuela’s energy sector and if the VRC still existed.
Its spokesperson said: “The UK does not recognise the Maduro regime and does not consult it on meetings held. The Venezuela Reconstruction Unit no longer exists.”
Express.co.uk has contacted the Foreign Office.
With additional reporting by Maria Ortega.