This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, January 30, 2019:
Maduro has entered his own chamber of horrors: everywhere he looks there are wax-like figures of tyrants from past days and years who have met an untimely death. His decision: will he remain obstinate and join them or will he escape in the dark of night, saving himself and his country?
It’s just a matter of time. With his oxygen hose being clamped shut by the U.S. government on Monday, he faces a certain future: no cash, support for his replacement growing, and his military’s loyalty fading away when he can’t pay them.
In addition, if Maduro retaliates by threatening Americans living in Venezuela and serving in the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, the “option” of U.S. military intervention to protect them will be activated.
He has fewer and fewer friends, with most of them thousands of miles away. His enemies increase in number by the hour, at last count numbering more than 20 neighbors and 60 worldwide.
It’s clever how Mnuchin and Bolton have arranged the blockade of oil from Maduro’s PdVSA oil company to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. It’s not a true blockade in the traditional sense. If Maduro’s state-owned and controlled oil company, PdVSA, continues to send crude to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, it will be accepted but it won’t get paid. The proceeds will instead flow into an account that is “blocked” by the U.S. Treasury Department and held for the benefit of Juan Guaido’s interim government.
The impact on those U.S. Gulf Coast refineries is modest, as those imports of heavy crude from Venezuela account for only about six percent of all crude imports into the U.S. But the impact on Maduro’s regime is huge: more than 40 percent of PdVSA’s exports go to those U.S. refineries, which, up until Monday, paid cash for them. Those exports were Maduro’s primary source of cash, as the balance of PdVSA’s exports go to Cuba, China, and Russia as partial repayment of billions in loans already made to support Maduro’s tottering regime.
That’s $25 million a day that Maduro has been counting on to keep his ship afloat, which ended on Monday.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was very clear about the intent of the blockade: “Today’s designation of PdVSA [for sanctions] will help prevent further diverting of Venezuela’s assets by Maduro and preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela.” He added that those sanctions would be removed only if Maduro “take[s] concrete, meaningful, and verifiable actions to support democratic order and combat corruption in Venezuela, including PdVSA.”
This is equivalent to asking a zebra to change his stripes.
Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, reiterated Mnuchin’s strategy: “What we’re focusing on today is disconnecting the illegitimate Maduro regime from the source of its revenues. We think, consistent with our recognition of Juan Guaido as the constitutional interim president of Venezuela, that those revenues should go to the legitimate government.”
Bolton was caught, some say deliberately, holding a yellow legal pad in such a way that his writing “5,000 to Columbia” clearly appeared on national television. When asked about it, Bolton demurred but reiterated his promise to protect Americans in Venezuela from reprisals by Maduro:
I reiterate that the United States will hold Venezuela security forces responsible for the safety of all U.S. diplomatic personnel, the National Assembly, and President Guaido. Any violence against these groups would signify a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response.
Message delivered to both U.S. citizens who may be concerned about further American military adventurism and to Maduro himself: There will shortly be 5,000 U.S. troops in Columbia awaiting instructions to enter Venezuela to protect those named by Bolton if they are threatened in any way by Maduro.
Bolton justifies this position by claiming that the U.S. bears a “special responsibility” for what’s happening in Venezuela: “The fact is, Venezuela is in our hemisphere. I think we have a special responsibility here, and I think the president feels very strongly about it.”
What Bolton and Trump apparently have ignored is that there is no mention of “special responsibility” in the U.S. Constitution when deploying U.S. military forces. Such deployment must be approved by Congress. Still, the troops are on their way. Maduro is hemmed in and running out of both options and friends. In other words, his regime is losing both altitude and airspeed.
His final decision is just moments away: leave in the dark of night or be removed with “extreme prejudice” by U.S. troops?
The Wall Street Journal: U.S. to Sanction Venezuela’s State-Owned Oil Giant
The Washington Examiner: Trump administration sanctions Venezuela’s state-run oil company
The Washington Examiner: In Venezuela, socialism has succeeded the way it always does
The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor: Why Doesn’t Trump Turn Off Maduro’s Oxygen Hose?