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?
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.