While the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley publicly announces, “Maduro must go” at the Venezuelan/Colombian border, the man himself is dodging drone attacks (from inside or outside his regime – no one’s really sure) and is facing hatred from every corner of his cash-strapped, starving country.
Ain’t socialism pretty?
And it’s about to get worse for the one-time bus driver who’s made a career of parroting Chavez’s socialistic lies (pay attention here, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez) because his decision to increase the price of fuel is about to make the already wildly unpopular leader the most hated man in the country.
Previous fuel increases led to deadly riots in Venezuela’s capital city of Caracas 20 years ago. But Maduro still plans on using the real or imagined drone attack as justification for a military crackdown and purge, which, given the riot possibilities mentioned above, may not be the wisest move at this particular time.
An effort to cull disloyal elements within Venezuela’s armed forces would not be a new development, said Geoff Ramsey, the assistant director for Venezuela at the Washington Office on Latin America.
“Maduro has been carrying out a near-constant purge of the armed forces over the last two years,” Ramsey added. “This has ramped up in recent months in the aftermath of a confirmed coup attempt in March and will continue to accelerate in light of the involvement of former National Guard officials in the recent assassination attempt.”
Scores of personnel from various branches of the Venezuelan military have already been arrested and charged with treason so far this year, Ramsey said, but the government may see this case differently.
“I do think that there is more urgency in this latest purge,” he said. “The government knows that the optics of the drone incident — the guardsmen running in the opposite direction of the explosions as Maduro is escorted offstage mid-speech — do not paint him in a strong light, and is trying to dissuade anyone from getting any creative ideas.”
So Maduro’s little empire of the mind is crumbling around him, and the final nail just may come in the form of an international money-laundering case, with charges filed at the end of July in Miami, that implicates many high-ranking Maduro loyalists in an embezzling scheme that used Venezuela’s oil income to exploit the country’s foreign-currency exchange system and rake in over a billion in the U.S. and other countries, says a federal criminal complaint.
The complaint describes a Venezuelan government culture in which officials, politicians and businessmen connected to President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, have plundered the national oil company, PDVSA, to enrich themselves while impoverishing the South American country.
The complaint names eight defendants and lists nine unidentified co-conspirators. Among them is a German national arrested Tuesday at Miami International Airport who manages “banking” activities for numerous Venezuelan officials and kleptocrats. Matthias Krull, 44, a Panamanian resident who also worked as a banker in Switzerland, made his first appearance in Miami federal court on Wednesday and has a pretrial detention hearing on Monday.
Other defendants are expected to be arrested in the sprawling case, which was filed by federal prosecutor Francisco Maderal. But apprehending some won’t be easy because they are likely to be in Venezuela, which has a hostile relationship with the United States.
Among the other named defendants: Carmelo Urdaneta Aqui, the former legal counsel to the Venezuelan Ministry of Oil and Mining, who the complaint says bought a condo at the Porsche Design Tower in Miami; Abraham Edgardo Ortega, the former executive director of finance at the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., PDVSA; and Francisco Convit Guruceaga, a Venezuelan businessman who is often referred to as “Bolichico,” or member of the “boliburgues,” the country’s elite.
The alleged money-laundering conspiracy began in December 2014 with a currency-exchange scheme to embezzle $600 million from PDVSA obtained through bribes and fraud, the complaint says. The defendants used an associate, who would later become a confidential source for the feds, to launder a portion of the PDVSA funds. By May of 2015, the conspiracy had doubled to $1.2 billion embezzled from Venezuela’s national oil company.
While Maduro wonders if there is a coup being readied to depose him, it’s nearly comical to realize that he has, in some ways, already deposed himself. As his power players and loyalists fall around him, there will be no one to protect the Chavista kingdom. And no new people signing up to do the job of fixing elections and protecting the steadily decreasing inner circle from international pressure to see leadership in Venezuela that seeks to trade for oil rather than exploit loopholes in currency exchange rates.
And Venezuela may finally be rid of Maduro. And they will have Maduro to thank.