This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, August 7, 2019:
This writer was too optimistic back in June when he prematurely rejoiced that Trump’s sanctions on Maduro’s totalitarian regime in Venezuela appeared to be working (see Sources below). It seemed reasonable at the time. After all, similar sanctions applied by President Reagan to the Noriega regime in 1989 had the desired effect.
When one of Russia’s suppliers of military equipment to Venezuela pulled out, it was easy at the time to report that it represented “a body blow from which it [Maduro’s dictatorship] might not recover.” In cocktail party parlance, “the first olive out of the bottle is always the hardest; the others come out a little more easily.”
It didn’t happen. And so, on Monday night, President Trump went for broke. He issued an executive order placing an immediate and total embargo on Maduro’s regime, and explained why in a letter he sent to Congress at the same time:
I have determined that it is necessary to block the property of the Government of Venezuela in light of the continued usurpation of power by the illegitimate Nicolas Maduro regime … [which includes] human rights abuses, arbitrary arrest and detention of Venezuelan citizens, curtailment of free press, and ongoing attempts to undermine Interim President Juan Guaido of Venezuela and the democratically-elected Venezuelan National Assembly.
The extraordinary escalation exceeds previous sanctions against some 100 individuals associated with Maduro’s inner circle. The executive order now blocks anyone – individually or corporately – from doing any business of any kind with anyone associated with the Maduro regime. The escalation applied immediately, and is the first time such an embargo has been applied in the Western Hemisphere since President Reagan applied one against the Noriega regime in Panama.
The order threatens supporters of Maduro including Cuba, China, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, with asset seizures if they continue to support the tottering totalitarian regime.
In addition, John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Advisor, said failure to comply with the president’s EO “could affect repayment of [their] debt after Maduro falls.”
Guaido further defined the far-reaching implications of Trump EO: “Any individual, company, institution, or nation that tries to do business with the regime will be seen by the international justice system as collaborating with and sustaining a dictatorship. They will be subject to sanctions and considered an accomplice to [Maduro’s] crimes.”
There is a carrot hidden among the sticks that Trump has been using to remove Maduro. Last week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross rolled out a post-Maduro economic recovery plan for Venezuela that included fresh sources of credit to the new administration, promises of financial help to rehabilitate the country’s infrastructure, as well as private sources of investment capital to put the country’s oil producer, PdVSA, back on line. Energy production has dropped nearly 90 percent from highs a few years ago, thanks not only to previous sanctions but to mismanagement of the company under Maduro.
Such a rehabilitation would also entice some, perhaps many, of those who have left the country out of desperation to return to their previous positions essential to the workings of a capitalist economy. For some of those estimated four million who left in desperation, such assistance might be too late. Reports are that many are arriving in Colombia looking like escapees from a concentration camp, suffering from grievous late-stage malnutrition that could shortly take their lives.
Such a rehabilitation would be small comfort to those citizens who have lost their lives under orders from Maduro. He has directly ordered the torture and murder of Navy Captain Rafael Acosta, but he is only one of an estimated 9,000 citizens who have been executed by Maduro’s para-military c olectivos and his Special Action Forces. And this doesn’t count those in prison who have been cannibalized by other prisoners due to the acute shortage of food.
For years, Maduro has used similar sanctions – starvation, torture, murder – to intimate his people and retain his position. Now Trump is using a similar strategy, but without the torture and murder, to remove him from his perch. Let’s hope he has the same success that Reagan had with Noriega 30 years ago.
The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor: U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela Are Finally Working
The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Expands Sanctions Against Venezuela Into an Embargo
TheHill.com: Trump expands Venezuela sanctions into embargo
The New American: U.S. Promises to Not Pursue Maduro if He Leaves Venezuela