Over the past week, with the story of El Pollo Carvajal’s Aruba narco-escapade, and reports of an obscene dollars-imports-military scam, we have come to understand what we’re up against in Venezuela: drug-trafficking generals.

Leave it to a last minute blocking of a U.S. Senate bill to clear things up a little more: we’re actually facing drug-trafficking generals … with an oil company.

Back in March, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced a bill that would establish targeted sanctions on Venezuelan government officials who committed human rights violations. The State Department objected on the grounds that it would hinder dialogue. Then Roberta-gate happened, and everyone came out looking like assholes.

Eventually though, the bill got to the Senate floor. Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, who also preferred dialogue to sanctions, blocked the bill, and it was put on the back burner while Malaysian planes fell and Russia tried to take over Ukraine.

But then, Venezuelan Gen. Hugo Carvajal, a close confidante of Hugo Chávez blacklisted as a “kingpin” by the U.S. Department of Treasury, was arrested in Aruba, only to be released a few days later when the Dutch government intervened. He returned to Venezuela to a hero’s welcome. And so the U.S. government came out looking like an asshole … again.

The positive side of the Carvajal fiasco is that the U.S. decided it had had enough of looking like an asshole and, in order to save face, jumpstarted the whole sanctions thing again.

The State Department announced it would revoke the visas of various chavistas, but released no names. Several senators drafted a letter to Secretary Kerry, urging the Administration to send a “strong message in defense of human rights.” Sen. Marco Rubio asked the State Department to freeze bank accounts in addition to revoking visas. Sen. Corker wisely removed his objection to the bill. Administrative costs were bargained, last minute amendments agreed upon; there was unanimous support. The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 was about to pass.

And then, hours before Congress went on recess until September … it was blocked again.

So who’s the asshole this time?

I love myself some oil money!
I *heart* Citgo

Introducing Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana who, according to some transparency watchdogs, is one of the “leading recipients of oil and gas industry support” in the Senate. She is on the record saying that with her position as Chair of the Senate Energy Committee she can help her state develop its energy resources. She is also in a tough re-election battle this year.

That’s all fine and dandy, but what does it have to do with Venezuela?

Turns out Landrieu was contacted by Patton Boggs, a lobbying firm representing the interests of CITGO, a company 100% owned by the Venezuelan government – owners of, among other things, a large refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Landrieu proceeded to block the unanimous consent needed for the bill to pass. According to this AP story, she claims to be worried about “jobs in the Lake Charles refinery.” This is surprising given how the refinery is not going anywhere no matter what happens to chavista human rights violators.

So, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres and his family can rest easy now: they won’t be missing out on the Magic Kingdom and on gobbling up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups anytime soon. PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company, has long tentacles, and they have him covered.

Please help me troll Senator Landrieu for helping out the bad guys. Tweet her here: @MaryLandrieu. Tweet to her opponent for reelection here: @billcassidy. And tweet especially if you’re having a bad day.

Just picture high-ranking chavista Luisa Ortega shopping at Barney’s.

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  1. I am in New Orleans right now, and I am curious about this, although it wouldn’t surprise me since Patton Boggs is of the Hale Boggs and Lindsey Boggs( whom I admired ) family and his lobbying firm is one of the biggest and best connected

  2. While I don’t disagree with your conclusions, the whole sanctions enterprise thus far underscores how the USA is unprepared to do anything much beyond symbolic gestures, for economic reasons. The Americans are to Venezuela what the Europeans are to Russia. Sort of.

    • Love the comparison, it was an Eureka moment, only that Venezuela is incapable of anexing anything (not even a prison)

        • Canucklehead on a metaphor-roll.

          What spooks me is that European fecklessness has ended up becoming a focus of Russian contempt. And I think that’s what gringo fecklessness is generating in Caracas. Just plain contempt.

          • I can understand that, and frankly, when I am not complaining about gringo interference I am complaining about their fecklessness myself, but I can imagine the gringos thinking: well, if we start putting visa restrictions on human rights abusers associated with folks who sell us oil, soon enough there ain’t going to be a light on in Warshington.

            That’s my best southern accent, and I apologize.

          • That’s 1990s thinkin’ right there, though. Shale happened. The tar sands happened. Mexico’s industry is liberalizing. North American energy independence has gone from impossible dream to just around the corner in just a few years. Why is the US cupping these fuckers’ balls again?!

          • I don’t really know what they mean by “energy independence” when they still rely on oil from all these lunatics, but I am sure you and 90% of the other people on this blog have the correct answer. I just assume they dance around Venezuela, the Saudis, the Iraquis etc etc because they still have to, or to do otherwise would be economic folly.

          • And, in Louisiana, the issue of Venezuela human rights abuses (Whe’ dat?) is unlikely to a significant campaign issue.

    • Thus you understand how unprepared we are for dealing with EL Pollo. It’s not that easy. These things require smart planning and plenty off good foresight. It also requires a will at the highest levels of government. All that was missing in this oppotunistic arrest. They only got Benji because the idiot foolishly walked into their hands. Ditto the chicken.

  3. “It’s the oil, stupid!” Although it’s perhaps a little trite to say so, it bears repeating. Right on the heals of the 100th anniversary of commercial oil production in the country it is patently clear that the “Dutch disease” remains both the cure and the curse.

  4. I think the Bill is mostly symbolic, an attempt by Marco Rubio to look good to his Hispanic constituency. For example, “freezing their bank accounts” sounds great, but of course an account can be moved to the Bahamas, Switzerland, or Singapore in a two minute window. No one significant will have such an account if the Bill becomes law. So, the bad guys won’t be able to visit Disneyland (unless they go to the one in France.)

    Sorry, but these consequences won’t make me vote for a right-wing Republican. There are too many other issues–amnesty for the child-immigrants called Dreamers, reproductive freedom for women, enforcement of anti-racism legislation, etc.

    There are lots of things the US can do to help Venezuela. I think secret indictments, along with a “Welcome to Disneyland!” policy, can be just as effective.

    • “Sorry, but these consequences won’t make me vote for a right-wing Republican.”

      I’m not a USAmerican, so I thankfully don’t have to face this horrible choice. But let’s say this, as a gedankenexperiment: say you were a USAmerican and a single-issue, I-only-care-about-Venezuela voter. Which US party would you support?

      Thanks to the total uselessness of the Obama State Department on Venezuelan affairs and the appalling fecklessness of pols like Landrieu, I honestly don’t know the answer to that. Which in its own right I find troubling…

      • I’m a Republican-leaning person, but I’ll have to defend Democrats this time. Just because Rubio is the most outspoken person about this issue, or because the Obama administration basically wants nothing to do with the situation, or because Landrieu’s shady deals; doesn’t mean this is a just-supported-by-Republicans issue, because in fact it is a bipartisan one. One doesn’t have to look so far to see Florida’s Senior Senator, Bill Nelson, and NJ’s Robert Menendez to see that this is something that has found support on both sides of the isle.

      • If you are an USAAMERICAN frankly there are a lot more pressing issues to worry about than corruption and human violation rights in Vzla. There are also violation rights and corruption in Africa, Russia, China… get the picture? Americans are gonna vote based on what is important to USA (like the rest of the world does) NOT what is important for Vzla, that is up to the Venezuelan folks to do…

    • Jeffry, you remind me of the conversations I had with my Venezuelan friends and telling them I was voting for Santos and not Zuluaga.

    • Oh dear Jeffry!
      With so many “important” things to be worried about in the US, and so kind as to devote some time to these minuscule affairs in a Banana Republic…
      Of course you will not be convinced to vote right, right?

    • Off course but it’s a start. You may disagree with the effectiveness but you have to respect their commitment to this cause. We’re on the same side in this cause. Beats holdout senators and congress people specially the supporters and apologists such as Serrano and black caucus or the Louisiana woman mentioned.

    • Not so weird when you think about it less as a nation-state issue, but an oil issue.

      Anything that supports oil revenues flowing into LA and thereby maintaining or expanding oil industry employment will trump party ideology. Her constituency is the people of LA and keeping them happy is all that matters to her; oil plays a big part of that. Louisiana is an extremely poor state (as are many other Southern states) compared to the rest of the US and oil guarantees high incomes.

      Bet if you dig, you can find her coming out against the EPA’s stance on new refineries in the US, which has long been part of the (D) party environmental platform.

  5. The US gov. has all the evidence they need to go after many of the top government officials from quite some time. They just don’t simply want to do it, they must have their reasons.

    I can see the Pandora box opening when the venezuelan government collapses or is on the way out, expecting anything more earlier is wishful thinking and a distraction in my opinion.

  6. Narco-Generales with a tight grip on the largest oil reserves in the world. They have muscle and the will to use it (even if it is to make sure they can continue to enjoy the little pleasures of life like standing in line at “It’s a small world”.) I’m not sure why I was underestimating their ability to influence other government’s decisions, specially those that affect them directly, but Aruba-gate and now this surely have changed my mind…

    • The military has no muscle over Aruba. There is economic muscle but not military. Reports of Armada “Navantia” boats moving towards islands nothing to be alarmed about. They have a little forward cannon that’s all. Any real offensive display or activity just serves to open door for real American military presence and response. There’s always that fine line the have to walk. The moment they turn to international terror, they open the pandoras box with regards to US military prioritizing.

    • Speaking of corruption and La., former Gov. Edwin Edwards is out of jail, in his, 80’s with a new wife and baby and back in politics! I remember when he was running against Dabid Duke,of the Klan, and the bumper stickers read ” vote for the crook. it’s important, part of the Louisiana DNA

  7. It’s a disgrace and a shameful act of Landrieu. I do not know why but this reminds me of the article about the Estudiantina Komaba singing all over Venezuela in the arms of the revolution. Maybe she is apolitical too.

    Anyway the US doesn’t really need an act of congress to enact sanctions on Human Rights violators. The executive could do it if they wanted to, no? So who is lobbying them?

  8. For years, the Venezuelan State has mastered the Washington Lobby through and for PDVSA. For good and, obviously, ill.

    Bernardo Álvarez, former deputy minister for Energy and Oil, was one of the longest tenured Venezuelan diplomats in the US. Smart and hardworking, he took full advantage of any prior connections with K street people.

    Jack Kemp, former Republican Congressman and VP candidate in 1996, actively lobbied for Venezuelan interests (that is, PSUV-State interests) for a decade. His son became active with Patton-Boggs a couple of years back.


    The PSUV-PDVSA-Government is, as it can be shown, as much as a Washington insider ans any of us can fathom.


    How could anyone compete with such power?

    A little historical aside, with strenuous parallels… Venezuelan leftists, persecuted by the Gomez regime, had a haven in Revolutionary Mexico. The Gomez government tried for years to topple the Revolution, to qlech it trough isolation, to convince the US to invade or blockade them… To no avail.

  9. Emiliana, how can one Senator block a 99% majority vote in the Senate, and why would a 100% vote be so important to Rubio? It is absolutely disgusting that the Obama Administration puts a blind eye to the massive drug trafficking through Venezuela.

      • FT, thank you. I was unaware of the “holds” possibility–it’s a wonder that any bill ever reaches the Senate floor.

    • Since Rubio had consensus over the bill once the financial part and other details were negotiated, he decided to skip the voting procedure and subject the legislation to what is known as “unanimous consent,” given that there were no objections. Landrieu called in at the last minute and pulled her support, the unanimous consent failed, and then the Senate went into recess until September, so nothing can be done until then…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unanimous_consent

      • Duarte, do you know how much time it would have taken for a vote? Isn’t it at this point something like “who’s for it, who is against? Press the button an we count”?

        • It´s my understanding that when unanimous consent is requested on the floor so as to expedite proceedings, there is a period of a few hours during which any staffer can call in and pull their Senator´s support, with no need for explaining why. It takes one single objection for the motion to be overruled.

          • Ok, but the other alternative would have taken what amount of time min and max? I mean: if they had gone for that other one (normal vote) and they knew most were for it, wouldn’t nay-sayers would have had to explain and anyway wouldn’t they have lost to the majority? Why not go for the usual voting? Would it have taken so long in this case?

  10. Looks like she will be voted out: “the latest polls point to the strong possibility that she will just barely edge out Cassidy in the Nov. 4 three-way primary, then lose to him in a Dec. 6 runoff. The major reason is her association with Obama, who has a 40 percent approval rating in Louisiana and lost the state to Mitt Romney by more than 17 points two years ago. Obamacare, which Landrieu voted for, is also extremely unpopular here: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/10/mary-landrieu-energy-2014-election-112365.html


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