Tougher U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela: An Escalating Crisis

The White House is getting tougher on Nicolás Maduro and his allies. But why did they take so long? A new article gives us a look on how U.S. policy on Venezuela is starting to change.

Photo: Politico

In the days prior, and right after the May 20 “election”, the U.S. government imposed financial sanctions to Diosdado Cabello and restricted official Venezuelan transactions. Nicolás Maduro retaliated by expelling the U.S. embassy’s chargé d’affaires, Todd Robinson, and his deputy, Brian Naranjo, from the country, declaring them personae non gratae.

Taking the word of U.S. VP Mike Pence, looks like the Trump administration is escalating its response to the Venezuelan crisis. Why now? This article by Politico’s Marc Caputo has more.

With Mike Pompeo taking over as Secretary of State and John Bolton assuming as National Security Adviser, U.S. policy regarding Venezuela has changed. In the case of Diosdado Cabello, the article says that the sanctions against him were blocked until very recently by Thomas Shannon, the under-secretary of State for Political Affairs. Shannon announced earlier this year his retirement, and he’s expected to leave his post next month.

The previous Secretary of State protected and assisted the people who undermined the president on Venezuela.

Someone satisfied with these changes is U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who told Politico that Pompeo’s predecessor, Eric Tillerson, wasn’t committed enough to push pressure on Maduro: “The previous Secretary of State protected and assisted the people who undermined the president on Venezuela.” He also says that President Trump mentions Venezuela to him frequently during their conversations.

The State Department is also monitoring the situation of U.S. citizen Joshua Holt, incarcerated since 2016. Last week, he made a video pleading for his life during the inmate riot at El Helicoide. Diosdado Cabello called Holt  “the chief spy for the U.S. in Latin America.”

The Venezuelan issue is also drawing lots of attention in another race: the one for the other senate seat in Florida, held by Democrat incumbent, Bill Nelson.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is running for Nelson’s seat and he has been pushing Venezuela as one of his main topics: from passing legislation banning Florida agencies from dealing with companies involved with Maduro, to meeting with the so-called “TSJ in exile.”

Earlier this month, he asked his fellow 49 state governors to take similar actions in a letter.

Senator Nelson is also boosting his own credentials in support of Venezuelan democracy and, hours before the May 20 “election”, he wrote the following message on his Twitter account:

The race is close between Scott and Nelson, even if there’s a long way to go before the primaries in late August. But the fact that the Venezuelan community is becoming more and more important in Florida, gives a broader meaning to the phrase “All politics is local.”