U.S. Sanctions Venezuela Vice-President over Drug Trafficking Claims

Interviewed by the BBC World Service some minutes ago (02/13/2017). Also, find below additional comments from this conversation.

Five potential implications on this matter (news: https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/as0005.aspx?src=ilaw).

1. Punch in the face of President Maduro.

1. By calling the Executive Vice President of Venezuela a prominent drug trafficker, The trump administration implies that Venezuela is a kleptocracy.

2. This could become the official beginning of an undiplomatic relationship between the Trump Administration and the Venezuelan government, characterized by verbal attacks from different directions: Microphone diplomacy.

3. It is worth mentioning that the former Venezuelan Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Mr. Roy Chaderton, advised President Maduro to be cautious and wait for President Trump’s first move.

2. A Message.

4. We do not want Tareck El Aissami as your potential successor.

3. Extradition order or arrest warrant through INTERPOL.

5. As the Executive Vice President of Venezuela, Tareck El Aissami has diplomatic immunity. However, he might not want to take the risk and travel overseas.

6. There is some precedent. For example, the detention of retired Venezuelan General, Hugo Carvajal, in Curacao (2014), under similar charges. Last year, President Maduro’s nephews were found guilty on drug charges at a US court. It is not just a deterrence policy. The United States has demonstrated to be serious about this issue.

4. A more radical behavior is expected.

7. The ruling elite would want to remain in power at all cost. The other choice is prison.

8. From this point of view, these sanctions are not helpful because the ruling elite will not see a safe exit from power.

5. The dialogue

9. It could represent a threat to the dialogue, an initiative between the government and the opposition, endorsed by the Vatican and the United States.

10. Now that one of the main supporters of these talks is attacking one of the government’s principal negotiators, it could be the end of the conversation: I will not endorse something where a drug lord is participating. It would be a contradiction to talk to someone you call “Prominent Venezuelan Drug Trafficker”.

11. On the other hand, it could be a carrot and stick strategy to put the government under pressure and force Maduro to meet some demands such as liberating political prisoners like Mr. Leopoldo Lopez and celebrating regional, municipal and presidential elections, etc.

How far does the US government want to go, remains an open question.