What Now?

U.S. imposes sanctions on PDVSA assets. Maduro lashes out against Caribbean Series suspension. John Bolton shares some interesting notes. NGOs report severe human rights abuses and mass arrests in protests. Censorship hits journalist César Miguel Rondón. The bolivar depreciates again.

Photo: Bloomberg

This Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the new sanctions against PDVSA to pressure the regime. These sanctions include: not buying any more oil from Venezuela; forbidding the export of diluents; the freezing of all PDVSA properties and interests in the U.S. jurisdiction (except Citgo) and restricting the trade of PDVSA bonds. U.S. will give control of PDVSA assets to the transition government and cautioned that individuals who operated in Venezuela’s oil sector may now be subject to sanctions. According to estimates of national security advisor John Bolton, Venezuela has $7 billion in assets in the U.S. and $11 billion in revenue from oil sales to the U.S. They also made a new call for the Armed Forces to accept a peaceful transition of power and restate their call for the international community to recognize caretaker President Juan Guaidó. The statement of the Treasury Department specifies: “the path to sanctions relief for PDVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the Interim President or a subsequent, democratically elected government.”

“Not that way, Mr. Trump”

“You’re filthy, immoral thieves. Filthy I say and filthy you stay,” said Nicolás last night in a mandatory broadcast. He wasn’t responding to the U.S. but to the Caribbean Professional Baseball Leagues Confederation for changing the venue for the 2019 Caribbean Series from Barquisimeto to Panama. He was particularly angry about that topic. Meanwhile, he engaged in another exercise of denial of reality, claiming that he no longer stands “slavery or neocolonialism from anyone”; denouncing once again an ongoing coup d’État (active since 2013, more or less); an information blockade and the intention of the U.S. of “stripping us from our wealth.” He said that he’s already given instructions to file suits for the control of resources, blaming Donald Trump for the partial or general violence that might take place in Venezuela and he even offered an analysis on John Bolton’s proxemic: “I’ve realized recently that we’re much more independent than we think (…) and what comes next is more economic independence,” he said, right before claiming that he knows how to interpret political moments. Once the broadcast had finished, Reuters reported that PDVSA started demanding clients with tankers waiting to load oil bound for the U.S. to pre-pay the shipments of they won’t send them.

All options are on the table

Eight of every ten dollars in Venezuela’s cash flow come from oil sales to the U.S. The implications of this blockade will be both immediate and very serious. John Bolton emphasized that President Donald Trump is leaving the door open for a U.S. military intervention to protect Juan Guaidó, the lawmakers of the National Assembly and the U.S. diplomatic staff: “The president has made it clear that all options are on the table,” said Bolton. The phrase took on a different hue for the brief notes that could be read in Bolton’s notebook, including: “5,000 soldiers in Colombia” which takes yet another hue when crossed with the news of the arrival of general Mark Stammer, U.S. Southern Army Commander, to that country, “to solidify cooperation with allied countries and develop strategies in the region to face threats and improve security strategies.”

The mechanisms of repression

In a week of protests the regime has murdered 35 people and detained 850, of which 703 were imprisoned by control courts, including 77 minors and 100 women, according to reports from several human rights NGOs. PROVEA denounced that there are eight cases of extrajudicial executions by FAES in Bolívar, Lara and Caracas. There’s evidence of tortures, cruel and inhuman treatments against detainees, and they’ve also been isolated, denied food and kept from NGO judicial assistance. In Monagas, 77 people have been imprisoned in La Pica prison, their heads were shaved and they were forced to sing slogans in favor of chavismo.

The balance of lawmakers Delsa Solórzano and Adriana Pichardo is larger, reporting 956 detainees nationwide, but Pope Francis said he’s “scared by a possible bloodbath in Venezuela,” claiming that it would be a “pastoral imprudence“ to take sides.

Chavismo’s noise

Regime Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said on TeleSUR that the Armed Forces are waiting for the mercenaries who want to enter Venezuela, cautioning that the Amnesty Law that Parliament promotes is an instrument of manipulation; a rather level-headed opinion considering that he was leading an “administrative march for peace in Venezuela” in Fuerte Tiuna, where he asked the military to resist and never hesitate in view of the “extravagant statements of governments that seek to isolate Venezuela.” Diosdado Cabello continues his televised tour. Yesterday, with more people on stage than in the audience he said that the U.S. Embassy is responsible for the security of caretaker President Juan Guaidó and, despite the well-known balance, he dared to claim: “We don’t murder anyone”; the verb he chose confirms the opposite. Most of Jorge Arreaza’s statement is worthless after U.S. sanctions, but all the same, the most important message he offered is all the time he dedicated to explaining (and “proving”) that he’s been talking with the U.S.

Other movements on the board

Canada will be the venue for the urgent meeting of the Lima Group about Venezuela, set for February 4. The Russian government denied the increase of military and economic aid for Nicolás. Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov said: “The essential now is for Venezuelans to deal with all the discrepancies they might have through constitutional means,” which according to him, includes avoiding foreign meddling. While Spain’s Pedro Sánchez talked on the phone with Canada’s Justin Trudeau about Venezuela’s situation, Taiwan said to stand “with the forces of freedom” and expressed its willingness to provide humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, Caricom defended Nicolás before UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, citing “the respect of sovereignty, the rule of law and human rights” as an excuse to support the regime. Guterres restated that his bona fides are ready to facilitate dialogue and negotiation between the parties. Later, his spokesman said that the UN will consider a response to Juan Guaidó’s letter requesting humanitarian aid. Khalid al-Falih, Energy Minister of Saudi Arabia, said that Venezuela’s political crisis has had no impact on global oil markets. Miami consul Scarlet Salazar said that she recognizes Juan Guaidó as caretaker President.

Mexico and Uruguay will take to the UN proposal of dialogue in Venezuela.

Censorship in Venezuela

Between 2013 and 2018, 115 media outlets have shut down in Venezuela. CONATEL has forbidden radio stations to talk about Juan Guaidó as caretaker President; report on protests against Nicolás or speak about the deaths and arrests in protests. This is why the morning radio program of César Miguel Rondón with Lila Vanorio, Adriana Núñez and Luis Carlos Díaz, broadcast on Éxitos 99.9 F.M., was pulled from the air. Besides the team that worked in this program, iconic in Venezuelan radio, its entire audience is affected, diminishing plurality in the radio. You can beat censorship through a downloadable application.

The bolivar is a fiction. This Monday, it depreciated by 36.82% more and each dollar costed 3,299.12 bolivars, compared to the 2,084.39 of last Friday, so the official exchange rate surpassed the last quote of the “criminal” black market dollar by 3.35%. With this new depreciation, the minimum wage of Bs. 18,000 is now equal to $5.46. But you see, Nicolás cries for the Caribbean Series.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.