Maduro says Venezuela will send astronauts to the Moon in a Chinese spacecraft | ET REALITY

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Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro promised to send “the first Venezuelan man or woman to the moon” on a Chinese spacecraft as part of a new strategic partnership between the two countries, he said Wednesday during a state visit to Beijing.

Maduro and Chinese President Xi Jinping, meeting in person for the first time in five years, agreed to boost cooperation in several areas, Maduro said, including oil, trade, finance, mining and space exploration.

“Very soon, young Venezuelans will come to prepare as astronauts, here in Chinese schools,” said Maduro, as part of a “new era” of collaboration between China and Venezuela.

After years of distancing himself from Beijing, Maduro is strengthening ties with China as he seeks help to revive Venezuela’s crumbling economy and oil industry. Venezuela is also in talks with the United States to explore the possibility of lifting some US sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector in exchange for Maduro’s promise to hold free and fair presidential elections next year.

Maduro’s promise to send citizens to the moon comes as Venezuelans continue to flee the country on foot. The political, economic and social crises have caused an exodus that has exceeded 7 million, according to the United Nations refugee agency. The country is still struggling with frequent power outages, insufficient running water, political instability and an inflation rate that reached 234 percent in 2022.

“Maduro is not capable of feeding his own people, much less putting a Venezuelan on the moon,” said Geoff Ramsey, a member of the Atlantic Council. Lunar aspirations are “a little ridiculous,” he said, but Maduro is “desperate to convey an image of himself as a successful statesman.”

China, which has worked for years to expand its influence in Latin America, has been a major lender to Venezuela since Hugo Chávez founded the socialist state. Venezuela is China’s largest borrower in Latin America with $60 billion in state loans. On Wednesday, Beijing announced it was upgrading their relationship to an “all-weather strategic partnership.”

More countries are entering the 21st century space race. Japan launched a mission this month in an attempt to become the fifth nation to land on the moon, weeks after India successfully landed a robotic spacecraft near its south pole. The United States remains the only country to send men to the moon; The Soviet Union and China have launched unmanned probes.

In May, China sent three more astronauts to space and made clear its ambitions to send a team to the moon before 2030. NASA aims to return American astronauts to the moon by the end of 2025.

Venezuela recently became the first Latin American country invited to the International Lunar Research Station, a program led by China and Russia and focused on establishing a permanent base on the Moon.

Maduro has also expressed interest in joining the BRICS (the economic grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), which will add six nations to its ranks next year.

Ramsey said the timing of the trip to Beijing, amid ongoing talks with the United States, was likely an attempt by Maduro to show Americans that he has options.

“But I’m not sure he got what he wanted,” Ramsey said. “The reality is that Venezuela owes more than $15 billion to China right now, and the Chinese are looking to recoup their investment before digging deeper.”

United States under the presidency donald trump It broke diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 2019, after Maduro claimed victory in an election considered fraudulent by Washington and other governments. The following year, a US federal court charged Maduro and 14 senior officials with drug trafficking, corruption and narcoterrorism.

In a diplomatic turn, the Biden administration has shown a willingness to deal directly with the Maduro government. Officials granted Chevron a license to resume pumping oil in Venezuela, home to the world’s largest crude reserves, and said they would consider further easing sanctions in exchange for legitimate elections.

The country is expected to hold presidential elections next year, but Maduro has not yet set a date for the vote. His government has forbidden the main opposition candidates run in the race.

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