Photo: Infobae, retrieved.

Nicolás Maduro looked flustered. It was a bad day. Escalona could not find empanadas, Escalona, las empanadas! Plus, the US Treasury Department had just included PDVSA in the OFAC list: An indirect block of Maduro’s main funding source, the US of A. They expected something like this along the line. Maybe a week, perhaps two. At least after the EU’s deadline to call for free and fair elections had expired. But not something so sudden, so fast.

“Not that way, Donald Trump,” said Maduro during the televised ceremony to receive the few diplomats that answered his call to return to Venezuela. “Hands off Venezuela, Donald Trump.” To Maduro, this new attack on Venezuelan sovereignty deserved a proportional response. Something strong enough. Severing diplomatic relations? Nope, just did that (+30 extra days to see what happens); Severing commercial relations? Nope, the U.S. just did that. What’s next?

For chavismo it has always been easier to go after the weak, the defenseless folk on the ground: the Venezuelan opposition. That’s why Maduro ordered Tarek William Saab, chavismo’s Chief Prosecutor, to open an investigation on caretaker President Juan Guaidó. Saab quickly turned to the the chavista Supreme Tribunal to freeze his assets and bank accounts and to issue a prohibition to leave their country. And they complied, of course.  

It’s hard talking about Venezuelan institutions because of all the caveats and disclaimers you have to make along the way. For those who are new: the Supreme Tribunal was illegally packed with chavista judges; the ANC is an illegal institution (intended to usurp the Parliament) that named an illegal Chief Prosecutor (Saab), and all of them illegally take orders from an illegal President.

These measures (freezing assets and the prohibition to leave the country), terrifying as they may seem elsewhere, are laughable in Venezuela.

These measures (freezing assets and the prohibition to leave the country), terrifying as they may seem elsewhere, are laughable in Venezuela.

And why are they meaningless? Because chavismo. Chavismo created a system based in destroying the value of money and eliminating economic liberties. They quashed the local currency, and turned banks into simple intermediaries used to obtain basic staples. And so all they could do is bar Guaidó from using something worth nothing. Chavismo left Venezuelans with nothing to lose.

Of course they could go after Guaidó’s physical integrity, but with the U.S Secretary of State making explicit their concerns about the caretaker President’s safety and their will to do “something” if chavismo touches him with el pétalo de una rosa, this time around that’s too big a gamble.

It’s probably the kind of thing that keeps Maduro awake at night, right after Escalona puts him to bed.

But this move by the steroid-pumped Tarek William Saab and the TSJ shows nothing but the government’s fake muscle. A Goliath full of hot air. What message is this sending? And to whom? Have they thought this through? Why make a move that will only make you look weak? Perhaps because there is nothing else they can do, except going after the next weak link in the chain: ordinary people.

And regarding the prohibition to leave the country, maybe the caretaker President of Venezuela is not contemplating the idea of leaving the country he’s sworn to take care of. Just sayin’.

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