Bolton Trolls Maduro As US Ramps Up Pressure on Venezuela

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The Trump administration has been ramping up diplomatic and economic pressure on the kleptocracy run by the dimwitted Venezuela strongman Nicolas Maduro. Under pressure from the US, the Bank of England refused to repatriate some $1.2 billion in gold it was holding for Venezuela. Yesterday, the US imposed sanctions on the Venezuela national oil company, PdVSA, and began funneling income from Venezuela’s oil industry held in US banks to the control of the socialist opposition leader Juan Guaidó. (I toss that in there as a reminder that this is not an attempt to install a friendly regime, it is an attempt to install a government that is actually interested in the welfare of Venezuelans.)

“Today’s designation of PdVSA will help prevent further diverting of Venezuela’s assets by Maduro and preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the White House.

Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said Monday’s effort would block $7 billion in assets and deprive Caracas of $11 billion in funds from exports during the next year, if the sanctions are maintained.

The Treasury Department said PdVSA and its subsidiaries, including the Citgo Petroleum Corp. refining company along the U.S. Gulf Coast, could be removed from the blacklist after “the expeditious transfer of control to the Interim President or a subsequent, democratically elected government.”

The Trump administration’s latest actions, including last week’s official recognition, will enable a transitional government immediately to access some $500 million, Mr. Guaidó told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Monday.

The funds will help his parallel administration, which is working toward organizing new elections, to finance the import of humanitarian aid in a country ravaged by chronic food and medicine shortages, he said.

By the way, has anyone else noticed the incredible number of voices on the left who are willing to fellate Maduro in public, with an audience, simply because Trump may get rid of the guy?

To underscore the seriousness of the situation, the administration turned to Elliott Abrams as its point man for settling Maduro’s hash. Abrams was one of the central figures in Reagan’s (mostly) successful war against communism in the 1980s. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of withholding information from Congress during the Iran Contra investigation of Lawrence Walsh and was subsequently pardoned by George H. W. Bush. He was an adviser to George W. Bush when the Venezuelan army executed a coup against Hugo Chavez and, to W’s undying shame, we refused to recognize it. Abrams has long been rumored to have been the person in the US government who green-lighted the coup attempt.

But the pièce de résistance was when national security adviser John Bolton strode to the lectern to announce sanctions:

There is no evidence, at this time, that any US troops are heading to Colombia but the message is clear as was Bolton’s statement:

The only thing keeping Maduro in power right now is the loyalty of the army’s senior leadership. I can’t imagine that is not being eroded by the realization that Maduro’s position is simply not sustainable. That reality will be brought home as money to pay troops becomes more and more difficult to come by.

Like so many things the US does, I’m not convinced that we have much of a plan if things go south. Right now we seem to be convinced that enough pressure will cause what remains of the Venezuelan government to eject Maduro. I don’t see the evidence that is a sure thing. Then the question becomes one of whether any outcome is worse than Maduro?

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