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. 


[MY COMMENTS ON] O’Neil: Venezuela’s Collapse Has Further to Go

Today, Dr. Shannon O’Neil, senior fellow at the  Council on Foreign Relations, spoke on Bloomberg Surveillance about the situation in Venezuela. Below, I elaborate on my initial reactions to this interview.

Fearing defeat, the National Electoral Council (under President Maduro’s control) did not activate the gubernatorial elections and the recall referendum.

The opposition engaged in such “dialogue” with two publicly declared goals: 1) make the recall against president Maduro happen and 2) achieve the release of 71 political prisoners, including Mr. Leopoldo Lopez.

Unless any of those goals are accomplished, it looks like these talks will not result in a political solution (For more information, see my report Venezuela This Week).

Why the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) gave up the recall referendum and wants to wait until 2018? Venezuela’s opposition is divided into two main positions: The MUD prefers a pacific and electoral long-transition whereas another group, represented by Leopoldo Lopez, Maria Corina Machado and Diego Arria, insists on a constitutional referendum that could become a non-violent and electoral short-transition.

Who is right? Could a deeper humanitarian crisis and gross violation of human rights be prevented now? Is it permissible to tolerate famine and deaths -due to current economic crisis-, arguing this could save thousands of Venezuelans from a potential violent conflict?

Those who believe this dire situation must be stopped before it gets worse, would support Mr. Lopez’s approach. People who think that it will actually get worse if the opposition attempts to protest now on the streets instead of talking,  would bet on the MUD.

Since politicians behind the MUD want to be the main leaders of the opposition, it is understandable why they are willing to agree upon the government’s breaches of basic democratic rules as long as president Maduro orders the National Electoral Council to celebrate gubernatorial elections in 2017 and the presidential election in 2018.

However, would president Maduro agree to carry out any of said elections? The electoral calendar does not give him too much choice.

On the other hand, what if Chavismo accepts defeat in both, the gubernatorial elections and the presidential election? Apparently, the problem would be solved.

Nevertheless, facts show it will not be that easy. By avoiding the celebration of the gubernatorial elections and the recall referendum, this year, the government demonstrated it is not giving any advantage, no matter if it has to break constitutional rules to stay in power.

In the event Chavismo undertakes the elections, would them be free, fair and transparent? Would the attempt by the government to steal the elections end up in the bloodshed the Obama administration and the Vatican wanted to prevent?

As of today, the MUD is wining -and, of course, the government too. If initiatives like #SiHaySalida do not take off, president Maduro may be still ruling the country by 2018 -I give more details in my post When will Venezuela’s Maduro exit the presidency?

Mr. Trump might decide to have a dog in this fight. It is very tricky because his good intentions may end up helping Mr. Maduro, in case the Trump administration intervenes to help the wrong people oust president Maduro.

There is always a possibility that a popular uprising and/or Venezuela’s army intervention backfire, victimizing president Maduro.

The bottom line: At this stage, certain measures outside diplomatic boundaries could be more damaging than helpful.

Venezuela This Week – SAT 26, 2016

* My selection of  some important news about Venezuela