Following New Sanctions, U.S. “Sees Into Future” And Refers To Venezuela’s Former Regime
Following last week’s sanctions against four shipping companies used for Venezuelan crude registered in Liberia and Italy, the U.S. State Department has taken to referring to the country’s leadership in the past tense.
On Monday, the State Department doubled down on its preference for National Assembly president Juan Guaido, now calling the actual government of Nicolas Maduro the former regime as if they have somehow rescinded power.
Guaido has had no problems summoning hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to call for Maduro’s ouster. But despite overwhelming support in the streets for the man Washington and some 50 other countries consider the rightful leader of the country, Maduro has dug in.
Over the weekend, Guaido rallied in Maracaibo, a city of around 1.5 million inhabitants that was hit with severe power outages over the last four weeks. Guaido is calling on Venezuelans to “rebuild the country.” More anti-Maduro rallies are expected today.
Hoy #Maracaibo se levanta con ímpetu y determinación para ejercer en las calles su voluntad de cambio.
Vamos a reconstruir nuestra tierra con nuestro propio esfuerzo y trabajo.
¡Qué viva el Zulia! #OperacionLibertadZulia pic.twitter.com/KobK9WKc7y
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) April 14, 2019
For newcomers to the story, here is the executive summary:
Maduro took over the ruling Socialists United upon the 2013 death in Havana of its founder, Hugo Chavez. They are revolutionaries, not much different in ideology than the old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a.k.a. the FARC. Maduro has overseen a worsening economic situation. Most people say it is because of falling oil prices and incompetence on the part of the ruling party. The ruling party, meanwhile, blames the Western world, mainly U.S. imperialists, but also Spanish colonials from 500 years ago. They are victims of postcolonial life in the Americas and are fighting for their lives. In the fight, Venezuela’s government nationalized much of its private sector. The oil industry, led by PdVSA, is suffering from lack of investment and know-how. The country fell into a recession three years ago and is now in an economic depression with hyperinflation. Its currency is useless. It is home to the biggest migrant crisis in the Americas today. Over 3 million Venezuelans have fled the country, equivalent to 10% of the population. The lucky ones with dual citizenship are living in Madrid, Buenos Aires and Miami. Those less fortunate are now living in UN refugee camps set up across the border in Colombia. Or in tents on the side of the road in Brazil. They survive on scraps and on handouts. Others in Venezuela survive on dollars.
Trash fills the street gutters in #socialist #Venezuela. Indeed, this is trash: Venezuelan #Bolivars. pic.twitter.com/Fll6PGxOgM
— Prof. Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) April 15, 2019
See: In Venezuela, Onions Matter More Than Oil — Forbes
Last week’s sanctions turn up the heat on companies that ship Venezuelan oil, with nine oil tankers now sanctioned and the possibility of facing fines for docking at U.S. ports. Venezuela is banned from selling crude oil to the U.S. starting April 28. Current sales are being wound down with bans on repatriation of funds. Cash from PdVSA crude oil sales must be kept in local U.S. accounts instead.
The U.S. is approaching wit’s end with the “Maduro regime.” Guaido has not been able to make a sufficient enough dent in the military to get them to back away from supporting him. The electorate, which continues to protest, has not been able to get Maduro or the Socialists United to bow to pressures to work with the National Assembly.
Maduro’s party is the largest party in the Assembly, but opposition parties dominate it. Maduro defanged the National Assembly two years ago, setting up a Constituent Assembly of party yes-men in its place.
Maduro was sworn into a six-year term in January after winning an election last May. The Supreme Court of Venezuela banned leading opposition figures from running. Most other opposition figures chose to protest the election byt not putting their name on the ballot. The Organization of American States called the election illegitimate, saying shortly after Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony that Guaido was the highest-ranking elected official in Venezuela. Brazil followed suit saying that Maduro was not legit, and then the U.S., led by Vice President Mike Pence, said Washington would recognize Guaido as the interim president until new elections could be held.
Maduro has not signaled that he or his party have any interest in holding new elections. He clearly sees new elections as giving in to the Yankee imperialists, his party’s enemy.
In a State Department fact sheet released on Monday, Washington fell short of calling Maduro’s party kleptomaniacs.
See: Why China Shouldn’t Support Maduro — Juan Guaido op-ed, Bloomberg
Maduro’s most “egregious corruption scheme” involved embezzlement from PdVSA. In 2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said that the Venezuelan oil firm used a European bank to process approximately $2 billion in transactions related to Venezuelan third-party money launderers, shell companies, and complex financial products to siphon off funds from PdVSA. They did not say which bank.
Danske Bank? Deutsche Bank? Any takers?
In 2018, a $1.2 billion money-laundering scheme involving Matthias Krull, a German national and Panamanian resident, and Gustavo Adolfo Hernandez, a Colombian national and naturalized U.S. citizen, used PdVSA to take advantage of Venezuela’s new foreign currency rate system by trading dollars for Venezuelan bolivars.
In 2016, Maduro declared approximately 12% of the country to be a part of an “Orinoco Mining Arc” and awarded himself broad authorities to oversee the exploitation of resources for personal gain, according to today’s fact sheet.
In 2017, Maduro kicked foreign companies out of Venezuela and replaced them with unregulated miners managed by the military and used, in part, in various alleged extortion schemes.
In 2017, after a seven-month investigation, Venezuela’s National Assembly — the equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate combined, uncovered instances where Socialists United created a food-for-votes scheme, buying allegiances from the poorest of the poor.
According to Transparency International, Venezuela ranks 168 out of 180 countries on the 2018 Corruption Perception Index. That puts them on par with Iraq, and only a little better than Libya, two war-torn nations.
Maduro has convinced his army that the “end-times” is approaching. The old imperial and colonial masters are bearing down on them to crush them once more. Only the Socialists United can save them from a life of servitude to the rich and the foreign.
Meanwhile, in the Twitter popularity contest: Maduro has 3.59 million followers. Guaido has 1.87 million.