When we learned this week that the inflation rate in Venezuela hit a milestone when it passed ten million percent (!) you might have thought things had gotten as bad as they could for Nicolas Maduro. Not so, my friends. The President has unleashed another round of orders freezing virtually all remaining assets of the Maduro regime, including civilian assets of some of the dictator’s major remaining supporters. How much impact this can realistically have on the beleaguered citizens of that country remains to be seen. (Associated Press)
The Trump administration froze all Venezuelan government assets Monday in a dramatic escalation of tensions with Nicolás Maduro that places his socialist administration alongside a short list of adversaries from Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Iran that have been targeted by such aggressive U.S. actions.
The ban blocking American companies and individuals from doing business with Maduro’s government and its top supporters, which takes effect immediately, is the first of its kind in the western hemisphere in over three decades, following an asset freeze against Gen. Manuel Noriega’s government in Panama and a trade embargo on the Sandinista leadership in Nicaragua in the 1980s…
“The apparent goal is to give the U.S. the ability to apply the law beyond its borders to allies of Maduro like China, Russia, Cuba, Iran and Turkey,” said Russ Dallen, the Miami-based head of Caracas Capital Markets brokerage. “Should those foreign entities continue doing business with Maduro they can have their U.S. assets seized.”
Worth noting is the fact that Trump has exempted the private sector (what little there is of it, anyway) from the freeze. The ban on government transactions, however, extends to people and businesses in other countries, including the United States, doing business with Maduro’s government. Anyone engaging in such transactions may face penalties themselves.
Additionally, deliveries of food, clothing, and medical supplies for humanitarian relief will be unaffected. Sadly, Maduro’s thugs continue to intercept many of those shipments, hampering the distribution of badly needed aid.
The other big exceptions were granted to Chevron, who will still be able to extract oil under a contract with the state-run oil company for at least three months. Venezuela will be barred from attempting to leverage its holdings in CITGO, however.
All of this is being done to increase pressure on Maduro to step down and peacefully transition power to Juan Guaido, who miraculously still remains a free man. John Bolton was hinting this week that even more action is on the way, in concert with a number of South American nations who also support Guaido’s claim to the presidency. I’m not sure how effective all of this can be, however. Norway continues to host negotiations between the two sides, but Maduro hasn’t appeared to move an inch from his original position.
Maduro has already demonstrated that he’s willing to let his people starve to death in the streets and unleash his militias on anyone who complains too much. He clearly intends to hold onto power, and he’s not starving. (If anything he’s getting fatter.) And he’s still supported by outside forces from Russia and Cuba, along with getting cash infusions from the Chinese and Turkey. I wouldn’t hold my breath for a quick path to prying the dictator from his palace.