This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, March 4, 2019:
Nicolas Maduro learned that his vice president came away empty when she went, hat in hand, to see Russia’s president Putin about getting another loan. This was on top of learning that China was negotiating with Juan Guaido’s people about how his new regime would repay the estimated $70 billion they have sunk into Maduro’s failing government.
He suffered a black eye a week ago when he ordered his military to stop humanitarian aid from coming into his country, by force. It fired on unarmed citizens, killing as many as eight and wounding hundreds more. As a result some 600 or more of his soldiers went over to the other side.
He learned that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, sensing a moment of opportunity, called Putin’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday for a “consultation” over Maduro’s rolling catastrophe. He no doubt got angry when he learned that Juan Guaido, the head of the country’s legitimate National Assembly, had somehow escaped the country despite being banned from leaving by his packed Supreme Court.
He must have been frustrated upon learning that his oil company’s production was off 40 percent just since Trump applied sanctions prohibiting American refineries from importing it. He likely pounded his desk when he learned that his oil company was having difficulty finding other buyers of the heavy crude that is no longer being shipped to those U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. It turns out that very few refineries can crack his country’s heavy crude.
Maduro is running out of friends and options simultaneously.
He sent his vice president, Delcy Rodriguez, to Moscow last week to see if she could arrange some more financing for Maduro’s failing and cash-starved Marxist regime. She came away with warm words but no cash. Russian president Putin was just too busy to see her and handed her off to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who told her: “We think the best way to help the Venezuelans is to expand practical, pragmatic, and mutual advantageous cooperation.”
Translation: since you have nothing to bargain with, and since we’re greatly concerned about the $17 billion that you owe us that you spent propping up your regime, we’re not going to throw good Russian rubles after bad. Have a nice day.
In case that wasn’t clear enough, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We hope our Venezuelan partners sort out as soon as possible the difficulties, both domestic political and, of course, economic difficulties, that are currently taking place in the country.”
Fyodor Lukyanov, head of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, has long since written off the Maduro regime, saying that they will not dispatch military forces to support it because “the probability is high that it won’t end as we would wish.”
This comes on top of the defection of China as reported by China’s Commerce Ministry on January 29: “If the opposition party [Guaido] holds power in the future, a new Venezuelan government could use ‘protecting national interests’ as a reason to renegotiate contract terms with China [or] even just refuse to repay remaining debts.”
That concern is vastly greater than the $17 billion Maduro owes Russia: China has “invested” some $70 billion there, and as a result of those concerns is now holding “debt renegotiations” with Guaido’s representatives in Washington. The results of those negotiations haven’t yet been released.
Patrick Duddy, who served two stints as U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela (one under President George Bush; the other under President Obama) before he was twice expelled, wrote an op-ed for The Hill last week giving his views of the rolling catastrophe taking place there. He lamented that “while Venezuela has become essentially a failed state held together by force, with assistance from China, Russia, and Cuba, neither the international community nor the democratic opposition [Guaido et al] has managed to dislodge Maduro or convince him to change direction.”
With China and Russia disappearing into the woodwork, that leaves Cuba as the remaining support mechanism keeping the Maduro regime from toppling. So-called “colectivo” gangs are the sharp end of the spear Maduro is using, with Cuban assistance, weaponry, and training, to keep his people in line. Human Rights Watch describes the motorcycle thugs as “gangs who use violence with impunity,” while Breitbart explains:
Colectivos have long formed an essential part of the Chavistas strategy, using violence and intimidation to control impoverished communities and ensure their loyalty to the regime.
Some of their crimes include attacking opposition lawmakers, storming and shutting down services at Catholic Churches, harassing journalists, and generally demanding loyalty from those dependent on government rationing for survival.
Those gangs are no doubt on the lookout for the return of Juan Guaido, who left the country a week ago to round up additional support from neighboring governments in his quest to replace Maduro. He visited Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Ecuador, and announced that he would be returning home on Sunday. But Guaido violated a ban imposed on him by Maduro’s packed Supreme Court when he left, and Maduro’s colectivos will only be too glad to find and arrest him upon his return.
That would trigger all manner of repercussions, including possibly exercising the military option that the Trump administration has threatened to use if Maduro’s people cause Guaido or his family any harm.
If Guaido returns to Venezuela safely, he will likely appear again in public on Monday and Tuesday, heading up more protests against Maduro and setting the stage for another potential confrontation that could lead ultimately to the exercise of that military option.
No matter where he turns, Maduro is running out of options, friends, and cash. His administration continues to lose airspeed and altitude simultaneously.
News.Yahoo.com: Venezuela’s Guaido begins journey home from Ecuador
News.Yahoo.com: Russia Pledges to Help Venezuela Avoid Military Intervention
TheHill.com: Patrick Duddy: The stakes are high in Venezuela
News.Yahoo.com: Venezuela’s Guaido says he will return home after Ecuador visit