The U.S. and Venezuela should just get a room

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618895The time has come to put away your Uncle Sam dart-boards, Silvio Rodriguez CD’s and you “Yankee, Go Home!” shirts. A Red White and Blue dawn has risen over the Ávila!

American love is the future, baby! and I am…so confused.

Remember how we once were so pissed off at the Imperialist North for wanting to pillage our villages and rape our God-fearing women? It was a huge deal! Back in March, Venezuelan diplomats were recalled from the U.S. for consultations, visa requirements for gringos were imposed, Dick Cheney was declared persona-non-grata, the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela was issued immediate orders to downsize its staff, air-raid drills were held, and an aggressive nation-wide drive to collect ten million signatures rejecting the sanctions was deployed.

“President Barack Obama, in the name of the US imperialist elite, has decided to personally take on the task of defeating my government, intervening in Venezuela, and controlling it from the US!” said a properly incensed Maduro.

Fast-forward to this Saturday July 4th. The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry released a statement from Maduro personally addressed to U.S Secretary of State John Kerry (or, as the missive hilariously has it, “al Excelentísimo Señor Jhon Kerry”):

“On behalf of President Nicolás Maduro and the people of Venezuela, allow me to convey to the government of the United States our best wishes on the occasion of the 239th anniversary of your Independence this 4th of July.

“We recognize the cultural richness of our nations, where identity is forged and the bright dialogue between our peoples is encouraged: the literature of William Faulkner, so akin to the magic of the greatest Latin American novelist Gabriel García Márquez, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain; the music, with its universal language that unites us, from the rhythms that tempered the slave labor in the deep South, and that gave birth to the most sublime and universal musical expressions in Jazz, all the way to the prodigious conductor’s baton of Gustavo Dudamel, who directs the prestigious Orchestra System in our country and is also the Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; as well as our Dancing Devils of Yare, which, after being named as a World Cultural Heritage, have become ambassadors to the cultural syncretism of our people. “

It goes on in that vein.

Placed in the context of our historically festering relations with the U.S., this statement is one step short of Maduro hosting a 4th of July barbecue, complete with a fireworks display over Miraflores.

What the hell happened?!?!

A Reuters piece last week finally settled several months’ worth of rumors about State Dept. official Thomas Shannon’s multiple shady meetings with Parliamentary Chief Diosdado Cabello in Haiti and Caracas.

According to an anonymous State Dept. source, these meetings were part of a deliberate strategy on behalf of the U.S. government to openly court (alleged drug kingpin, per U.S. Justice Dept.) Cabello and engage in “soft diplomacy” with Caracas, in order to prevent Leopoldo López´ death via hunger strike.

That Diosdado was so willing to cooperate with the sworn enemy of the regime, and also able to deliver at least some of what was asked of him (election dates, and a couple of political prisoners freed) speaks to both his desperation before the prospect of a lengthy jail sentence for drug offenses, and to his effective power within the government for getting things done.

The Reuters piece also confirmed that Maduro himself requested an “open channel of communication” with the U.S. back in March, while he was actively hating on the U.S. in public.

Uncle Sam’s new Venezuela rhetoric isn’t quite as florid as Casa Amarilla’s, but the change in tone is obvious. All of a sudden, we were no longer a “threat to national security,” per senior White House Staffers; we became a source of “strong ties of friendship, family, culture, sport, and commerce that bind us together” according to John Kerry’s Independence Day letter.

It seems the U.S. has concluded that stability in Venezuela can only be guaranteed through government channels, and that said channels are disparate. They understand that the opposition, while ideologically “aligned,” is mostly a bystander in this game. They also understand that effectively engaging the Venezuelan power base involves wooing Diosdado.

What’s hard to figure out, though, is exactly how far Tom Shannon and the State Department can really go in speaking for the Justice Department. The gringos have this exotic thing they call “separation of powers” and “prosecutorial independence”: State can’t call off Justice just like that. DEA has committed big time, elite investigators to the Diosdado case, and apparently so has the FBI. Shannon is constrained in what he can offer Diosdado in a way Diosdado himself – who can get Luisa Ortega to do the Funky Chicken on Cadena Nacional with a single phone call, if he’s so minded – could scarcely conceive of.

Maduro’s role in all this remains unclear, as does the full extent (and agenda) of Gringo involvement. But the U.S. overture could end up revealing lots about the Maduro/Diosdado power dynamics as they apply to foreign policy, as well as a testing the U.S.’s leadership over other Latin American countries.

I, for one, have a hard time grasping how a recently-accused-of-drug-dealing government official becomes the Venezuelan sweetheart, nay, spokesman, of State Department diplomacy. But if this bizarre exchange of pleasantries somehow means we will have monitored elections, and that neighboring countries like Brazil and Colombia will be pressured into issuing statements of condemnation over Human Rights violations in our country, shouldn’t I be happy?

I´ll tell you what DOES makes me happy: unlimited free refills and Baywatch. God bless the U.S.A.

60 COMMENTS

  1. Emiliana,

    It is a dichotomy. I can’t believe that the Justice Department is going to give up on Cabello and go away quietly. The case on Cabello surely is stronger than what they had on Carvajal. It think there is some significance to the meeting with Shannon being held in Haiti, whom I understand does not have a extradition treaty with the U.S.

    • Well, the thing is DOS (Kerry) well they are in the cabinet so they Talk with DOJ, and DOD, and well they could back up or slow down if they convinced the other why they should do one thing or the other…So they have interns writing Memos and talking to every department in the executive branch to see who opposes , who agrees, etc…

  2. Looks like the only purpose in life of Bolivarians is to get rich and then to profit of their riches in a decent place, so they ask for asylum in the USA and rat on their associates in crime. I am just waiting for the day both Cabello and Maduro will ask for asylum. There are rats but then there are Bolivarian rats.

    • Wow, could that be what’s really going on in Kleptozuela!

      Are money and power really behind la rebolusion bonita? nnaaaahhhhhhhh..

      Cleptocracia, version Criolla, Siglo 21:

      Kleptocracy, alternatively cleptocracy or kleptarchy, (from Greek: κλέπτης – kleptēs, “thief”[1] and κράτος – kratos, “power, rule”,[2] hence “rule by thieves”) is a term applied to a government seen as having a particularly severe and systemic problem with officials or a ruling class (collectively, kleptocrats) taking advantage of corruption to extend the personal wealth and political power. Typically this system involves the embezzlement of state funds at the expense of the wider population, sometimes without even the pretense of honest service.

      • κλέπτης is just one facet of it. When you also analyse the other facets, this is not really a kleptocracy but rather a rogue state.

        • What other facets? What else do they do except steal, by force; Disguised as “socialist democracy”..

          Call it Rogue Kleptocracy, Tropical Hybrid, Guisos al estilo Criollo, if you prefer.

  3. “Venezuela agreed to provide funding for security and logistics of a U.N.-coordinated program in Haiti for the August polls, the official said, after years of running separate multi-million-dollar aid programs. It also agreed to cooperate in Haiti in the areas of health, energy and agriculture.” Mientras escriben esto varios venezolanos son asesinados y robados por criminales mejores armados que la fuerza de segurida.

  4. I echo Miguel’s view that Shannon is not going to be as dumb as to be photographed with Diosdado if the justice dept is soon to open a trial against him accusing him of being a Narco.

    • Exactly right. Justice and Foreign Affairs both answer to the President.

      “Mz. Lynch, I want you to be the bad cop. Mr. Kerry, you be the good cop.”

      • No, prosecutors do not “answer to the President”. There is an important principle of prosecutorial independence which is legally mandated in the U.S. The idea that the U.S. President would direct a Federal Prosecutor to limit a large-scale drug smuggling investigation is a non-starter. When Presidents don’t want someone like Scooter Libby to go to jail, they exercise the pardon power, they don’t stop the prosecution, unless they want to be impeached for obstruction of justice.

        I think he’s still Adiosdado.

        • Articles of Impeachment Against Richard Nixon, President of the United States, # 1. Paragraph four:

          The President committed acts justifying impeachment, including:

          “interfering or endeavouring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Congressional Committees;

          http://watergate.info/impeachment/articles-of-impeachment

        • All officials of the Justice Department are subordinate to the President and take orders from him. All Federal prosecutors are either District Attorneys appointed and dismissed by the President at will, or subordinates of the DAs. If the President doesn’t want a prosecution, it won’t happen.

          The Scooter Libby case was a consequence of there being a special counsel charged with the investigation of a politically sensitive case. Such cases arise when the President is under public pressure to set up an independent investigation. In those cases, the President’s formal authority over the prosecutor is restricted by law, and the political context also restrains the President from interfering.

          The prosecutors looking at Cabello are not special prosecutors, and most likely there would be no political backlash for Obama in quashing any investigation.

          • I see you don’t explain why Nixon got impeached for interfering in an investigation by the Justice Department. It is a core democratic principle that the President is not above the law, which means that he or she cannot derail prosecutions by interfering in prosecutorial decisions, or worse, replacing prosecutors who are independent.

            In 2006, when an attempt was made to dismiss several US Attorneys, Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General, claimed that it was purely a personnel decision. Both he, and a number of high officials were forced to resign as a result. Subsequent proceedings determined that, while not criminal, the he dismissals were highly improper.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dismissal_of_U.S._attorneys_controversy

          • Nixon was charged with interfering in the investigation of misdeeds committed by his own subordinates in his interest, misdeeds which threatened the integrity of the American political system. The immense political significance of this was what led to his impeachment. The indictment or non-indictment of a foreigner for such ordinary crimes as drug trafficking has no such significance. Furthermore, the consequences of a U.S. indictment of a leading official of another nation are an obvious diplomatic concern, and the President would be fully within his authority to tell the Justice Department to butt out.

            Or do you think that every U.S. Attorney should be free to stick wrenches in foreign relations at will?

            As to the Gonzales affair – when President Obama took office, he immediately discharged every U.S. Attorney in the country, an action without precedent. (Except one: Patrick Fitzgerald of the Northern District of Illinois, who was investigating the corrupt dealings of some of Obama’s Democrat colleagues in our state. Dismissing Fitzgerald would have been politically dangerous; especially as Fitzgerald, though a Republican appointee, had been appointed special counsel for investigation of the Bush administration and had procured the conviction of Scooter Libby.). Presidents are entitled to appoint District Attorneys, and when there is a change of parties, all D.A.s get switched out. But dismissals are normally delayed until the new appointees are designated. Obama didn’t bother – and there was negligible political blowback for him.

          • Rich, thank you for telling it like it is. See my comments at bottom. Wishful thinking runs amok with this crowd

        • I haven’t seen that there is already a prosecution against Diosdado…there are some elements in the some attorney’s offices in some states? and even with that, they can talk, and say look, do not charge the guy, or wait a little. It happens in criminal law all the time. You could be arrested for battery (you throw a glass of water to someone, yeap battery), and you could be call for a day for you to say if you are guilty or not, but that day the attorney office could even not even call your case–>meaning they are not going to waste time and money…so “they do not answer to the president” is using the air quotes

  5. Hey it’s just sweet, humanitarian, modern Int’l politics: If the USA and Europe can be friends with the most Putrid Regimes on the planet, China, Russia, the Arab dictatorships… and are on a delightful honeymoon now with Cuba’s assassins, why doesn’t Cubazuela join the party?

  6. “Maduro’s role in all this remains unclear, as does the full extent (and agenda) of Gringo involvement. But the U.S. overture could end up revealing lots about the Maduro/Diosdado power dynamics as they apply to foreign policy, as well as a testing the U.S.’s leadership other Latin American countries.”

    I think Cabello realizes that he is in very troubled waters. He also realizes that Chavismo’s days are numbered, as it’s obvious for everyone, specially for those who are inside the monster (as Cabello is), that the ‘revolution’ is clearly unsustainable economically and, thus, has no possible future. To buy time is the only thing that he can do now, specially if he wants to get his family safely out of this when the time comes.

    To a great extent, Cabello needs the US more than the opposite. Chavismo’s allies in the region are getting scarce: when 2015 turns to 2016, Cristina will be out; and rumors in Brazil is that Dilma can resign at any moment; don’t forget Ecuador boiling right now. Taking all that in consideration, it wouldn’t be smart for the US to step up animosity towards Chavismo now.

    Imagine South America with most countries being non-aligned with Chavismo. That won’t be small. That’s probably when the US will adopt a very different tone, aligned with the rest continent, all in unison condemning Chavismo and calling for Maduro to step down.

    As the Bud slogan goes, great times are coming!

  7. Several factors come to mind in propiciating a more conciliatory stance between the regime and the USG.
    1. Cuba has done it and is fine with it.
    2. Things are getting dicey and having the US breathing on your neck makes you uncomfortable , at least you want to avoid getting the OAS to condem the regime as dictatorial with US sponsorship.
    3. You may be close to a default and will want the US to help you out when you go to the FMI for urgent help ( I know the FMI is neutral but nonetheless the US has a lot of friends there) .

    Whats in if for the USG , use the reapproachment to help the oppo have the regime loosen its grip on the opposition persecuted leadership and people , allow for a more fair playing field in the forthcoming election , if push comes to shove a amicable stance helps convince the other lat am that its acting as Venezuelas friend .

    The investigation meantime proceeds at its own pace to be activated once conditions make it expedient. Until the indictments are out its formally all embraces and kisses.

  8. A very intelligent Post by Duarte.
    There is a negotiation going on.
    We can only hope that the U.S. will not give too much away, since the Venezuelan regime is against the ropes.Criminals like Cabello should not be given any way out.

    • I agree.
      Even if this brings about transparent elections and Lopez’s release, I will forever resent the US if they drop whatever they have on Cabello.

      • Whatever the U.S. does or does not do, they will be criticized and “resented”. Remember that the U.S. is not in the business of “bringing justice” to all parts of the world. They are acting in their own national interests to prevent a general melt-down in Venezuela, to prevent a humanitarian disaster, and to achieve a long-term stability in the region. I wish I could determine their strategy, but I cannot. I just don’t have enough information. But, I assure you, they are not just “shooting from the hip”. I would like to see all the thugs get what they deserve too. But getting them out of power and restoring order is a higher priority.

  9. I do not agree with all my (U.S.) government does, quite the opposite. One thing I will give them, they do not move stupidly or blindly. I guarantee there were advisors and people well versed in the investigations ongoing consulted ad infinum before any statements were made, or any meetings were arranged.
    A quote from the movie The Godfather keeps running through my mind…
    ” Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer….. ”
    Happy Fifth!

  10. Emiliana, several thoughts: Cabello met with Raul right after Shannon/Haiti, and only then was the Parliamentary election date announced so that LL could stop killing himself and claim a pyrrhic victory (these being the reported main goals of the Shannon meeting). The Maduro/Cabello/PSUV election date was announced only because they are sure they have the elections fixed, as is very obvious by the patently phony PSUV/CNE-backed Primary election results, obvious to any thinking person (but, not not apparently to the MUD, which to my knowledge has not even commented publicly on how 6m Smartmatic machines, in the face of widespread reports of low lines/attendance, with 400-600m claimed even to be turned away because of “long lines”, could process 3.1mm Primary voters, when these 6m machines-15% of the total 40m claimed to be used in a national election for both PSUV/Oppo candidates- wouldn’t be expected to process proportionately more than 2mm voters, even assuming long lines and a high total 12mm national voter turnout.for both PSUV/Oppo candidates. The pushback to the Shannon meeting by Maduro/Co. local radicals was evident when, as part of the Shannon meeting, a meeting was scheduled at the end of last week with Maduro and Sen. Corker, arguably the most influential U. S. Congress foreign relations policy-setter as head of the U.S.Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with the reported result that Sen. Corker was kept waiting in Miraflores for hours and wasn’t even received by Maduro. As for DC being let off the narco hook, this as part of any quid pro quo, even if such a deal were possible (unlikely with opposition within the governments of both sides), this as stated by others here is probably not possible due to an independent U.S. judiciary, as well as the size of the transgressions involved..

    • You see, the big thing on Obama’s agenda is to have some big-ass legacy things that will stimulate his (so far unannounced and sure as hell in the works) library. All US presidents establish a “Library”. The more famous the deeds while el presidente’ the more their library rakes in… That is the thing with Cuba. That is the thing with healthcare…. He is fishing for a legacy that will fuel his library fund raising capabilities… Welcome to capitalism at it’s finest…. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Venezuela, or anybody in Venezuela… or anybody in Cuba, or Cuba itself….. Just building a legacy for his future library…. The more famous the deeds, the more he gets for speaking engagements, and the more funds he receives for his library…. Hell, former president Bill Clinton earned in excess of $25 million for delivering 104 speeches since the beginning of 2014, and all he did was get a blow-job by a chubby intern….. Helluva gig if you can land it!

  11. Only a party that can’t win demands complete surrender from a strong enemy.

    That is, Cabello will not be doing jail time, and will live out the rest of his life in wealth.

    There is nothing wrong with letting them get away with it as long as they leave. I mean, is revenge a profitable political strategy? Help me out here pol. sci. majors. And people who were alive when Estanga whatever. Angry vs. Win.

  12. I think Faulkner had more of an influence on Latin American literature than he had on American literature. Don’t know why that is. Everybody was reading Hemingway or something…

    • I think Faulkner had more of an influence on Latin American literature than he had on American literature. Don’t know why that is.

      My guess is sociological- the American South and Latin America shared a history of wealthy landowners of large units – plantations/latifundias – worked with slave labor- or in the case of peonage, coerced labor. By contrast, the northern US was based on free labor and on yeoman farmers. The Venezuelan journalist Carlos Rangel had some cogent comparisons in The Latin Americans: Their Love-Hate Relationship with the United Sates, page 195:

      The conditions and the development of the Spanish American world invite, as already mentioned, certain parallels with the American South. These two slave societies have interpreted their history in a similar way; or rather, they have required the same self-justification. In 1816, the fledgling North American republic imposed tariffs to protect the development of its budding industry against the massive influx of English manufactured imports, The most ardent among the protectionists were the Virginians and the North and South Carolinians, who felt that with their inexpensive cotton and cheaper manpower, the Southern states would become textile producers able to rival Manchester.

      Barely fifteen years after Southern Congressmen such as Calhoun and Lowndes of South Carolina had established themselves as effective spokesmen for tariffs on goods bought from Great Britain, the South began its subsequent failure [to industrialize] by charging that protectionism had been invented by the North as a means of enriching itself at the expense of the South. Southern leaders stirred up their audiences by claiming that of every hundred bales of cotton sold in Boston or New York, forty had been stolen from the South. The argument became more heated, and the North found itself charged with having accumulated capital in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth by defrauding the South through financial trickery. One contemporary writer says “When they (the Southerners)see the flourishing villages of New England, they cry, ‘We pay for all this.’ “A myth was manufactured that attributed Northern prosperity to the South’s paralysis, and vice versa. Southerners went to war in 1860 quite convinced that if they succeeded in breaking their dependence on the North, not only would they prosper miraculously; the abhorred Yankees, deprived of raw materials and the southern market for their manufactured goods, would be condemned to an economic crisis as well.

      Thus, well before the birth of Hobson, Hilferdig, and Lenin, the ‘Third World’ arguments had been invented by Southern slaveholder

      I bought the book in Venezuela, where its title was different from its title in English: Del Buen Salvaje al Buen Revolcionario I highly recommend the book.

  13. Politics makes for strange bedfellows.

    Obviously, there are deeper layers here. I doubt that we will ever know the real story on this. Or, at least not until it all gets declassified in 50 years.

  14. So, Cabello himself is negotiating an asylum, or at least a lighter sentence. And those smiling Shannon-Cabello pictures weren’t cheap.

    Don’t know how long this story is going to last, but is far from over.

  15. Maybe it all boil down to Jhon Kerry wanting to go fishing en Los Roques, now that biking is no longer an option…

  16. So the USA opens its magnificent embassy in Cuba, while Masburro reads Edgar Allan Poe and Obama dances to the Diablos de Yare, such a happy, happy family.

    Still, the perpetrators of the monstrous Guerra Economica are responsible for every ailment in Cubazuela, from floods to bachaqueo to the cost of la pata ‘e pollo or daily murders. The Axis of Miami-Bogota-Madrid and the Ultra-derecha are as evil as they’ve ever been, relentless.

    If only half of the population had the slightest clue of what happens in the World, minimal, basic education… But no, they are “alfavetisados”. They can read and write and are so well informed, they all read Hemingway by age 12, if not Joyce or Baudelaire.

    And so, the Circus goes on, applauded by the pueblo criollo embrutecido. When do they open the great North Korean Embasy in las Mercedes?

  17. The regime is in full esquizohrenic mood swing right now , it loves the US but the pentagon stands accused on promoting together with Exxon and the Guainese govt the take over of our oil riches in seas Venezuela claims for itself , It will broach no opposition from Guiana but it offers to continue oil supplies to Caricom countries who stand behing Guainas forthright position . Coherence or logic has never been its forte , demostrably so now that it is probably trying to use buffonic antics to arouse the patriotic fervours ot the population behind itself !!

  18. Shannon is constrained in what he can offer Diosdado in a way Diosdado himself – who can get Luisa Ortega to do the Funky Chicken on Cadena Nacional with a single phone call, if he’s so minded – could scarcely conceive of.

    Masterful writing. The Funky Chicken- hilarious and also a succinct way to illuminate the differences between Chavista and US ways of governing.

  19. This all supports the theory advanced by others that the sanctions and the Cabello investigation are designed to help, not hurt Maduro. I don’t believe the US particularly likes Maduro, but they don’t want a (completely) collapsed government in the region either.

    • you are overthinking. The administration is not as smart as you think. You probably know more about Venezuela than they do.

  20. Very good post Emi. Of course, you raise more questions than can be answered, but you did a nice job of framing the issue.

  21. The more I think about this, the less sense it makes for Chavismo.

    They are losing their ideological underpinnings. Under Chavez, they had some core ideology that they tended to stick with. Yes, it was filled with logical inconsistencies, but they stuck with it regardless. One of those was that Chavismo was “anti-imperialist”. Never mind that “the empire” was their best customer. They always maintained that the U.S. was their number one enemy. It was part of the foundation of their ideology. If they take away the idea that the U.S. and capitalism are evil, they will undermine the ideological structure they built.

    Again, I don’t get it…

  22. “DEA has committed big time, elite investigators to the Diosdado case, and apparently so has the FBI” Que no, Emiliana, que no, Jim Luers lo ha dicho repetidas veces: no hay tal investigación, deja la inventadera XD

  23. Emilia, the justice dept chain of command goes where? The AG reports to POTUS. The narcotics case against Venezuelans is political meaning the whole thing hinges on the WH. Whether indictments are ever forthcoming to whether they are unsealed. We have to create the aura that this is going to happen in order to put the fear of God into them. They (Brasil, Havana, Ccs) are acting like the indictments will never be unsealed. They have good reason to believe so and they speak from experience in the case of the Castro’s. Everyone knows that once you unseal you gotta follow up and few see the U.S. going down this road. Not now anyways. Hard to say where things will go under a Hillary presidency (scary). A Bush presidency could see indictments unsealed. This road is akin to Panama meaning anything goes and that would mean having military contingencies in order. We are nowhere near that. This is for another administration.

  24. Regarding Exxon, nothing will happen unless they interfere with Exxon. If they send warships towards the rig then they will get the US Navy involved and this will just not happen because Armada has no firepower they are sitting ducks for USN. Trust me on this.

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