Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Americans Tighten the Screw on Maduro

The US national security adviser, John Bolton, said American  strategic interests were in play, including concerns about the presence and activities of US foes in the region.

“We think stability and democracy in Venezuela are in the direct national interests of the United States right now,” Bolton told reporters. “The authoritarian regime of Chávez and Maduro has allowed the penetration by adversaries of the United States, not least of which is Cuba.” He added: “Some call the country ‘Cubazuela’, reflecting the grip that Cuba’s military and security forces have on the Maduro regime. We think that is a strategic significant threat to the United States and there are others as well, including Iran’s interest in Venezuela’s uranium deposits.”
Asked if there was any possibility of US troops getting involved in the Venezuelan crisis, Bolton replied: “Look, the president has made it very clear on this matter that all option are on the table.” Any violence against Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition or US diplomatic staff “would be met by a significant response”.
The notepad Bolton was holding hinted at just how potentially a dangerous situation it could be. The cryptic handwritten comment appeared to read: “5,000 troops to Colombia”.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the proceeds of the purchase of Venezuelan oil would now be withheld from  Maduro’s government, but the company could avoid sanctions by recognizing Guaidó. Venezuela is heavily reliant on the US for its oil revenue – sending 41% of its oil exports there – while it remains in the top four crude oil suppliers to the US. The US action blocks all PDVSA property and interests subject to US jurisdiction, and prohibits US citizens from engaging in transactions with them. But Mnuchin said US-based subsidiary Citgo could continue operations if its earnings were deposited in a blocked account in the US.
Ivan Briscoe, the International Crisis Group’s program director for Latin America, thought Maduro could survive additional sanctions. He warned that the situation for Venezuelans would get worse should the US, China and Russia continue to treat the country as a “football in a bigger political game”

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