Photo: Voanoticias, retrieved.
A Common Answer
Nicolás’s government said on Tuesday that Donald Trump’s Executive Order to block the State’s asses in U.S. soil pretends to “formalize the criminal economic, financial and commercial blockade.” His vice-president, Delcy Rodríguez, said that the blockade is an attack against international law, “kicks” the negotiation table in Barbados, extorts allies and affects the purchase of medicine and food. She’s forgetting about the thousands of millions of dollars that her government has accumulated with pharmaceutical companies before the sanctions, the main reason why they left the country. Delcy warned that these new sanctions will set a precedent regarding private property in other jurisdictions. Yes, you read that right, she said “private property” and also manifested her astonishment regarding these actions, “with which the economy becomes a fundamental instrument to attack entire countries.”
The Perfect Excuse
Ruling chavismo structured its key messages around the “blockade” idea. Maybe this explains their spokespeople underlying joy, using their outrage voices but profoundly incoherent arguments, because they took themselves out of the equation, forgetting about the cocktail of corruption, controls, looting and violations of norms and institutions, and presented the complex humanitarian emergency we’re going through as a consequence of the U.S. sanctions. That’s a lie. Following Delcy Rodríguez’s line, “the blockade of our assets will affect the entire country, private and public sectors alike,” said Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. He accused the U.S. of seeking to turn Venezuela into their “territory for geopolitical war” against Russia and China. While his ambassador in the UN, Samuel Moncada, condemned “economic terrorism” and a “higher phase” of “an aggression campaign.” Even the Armed Forces expressed “profound outrage and categorical rejection” of the Executive Order.
While chavismo spoke even in media that it pulled off the air, the International Conference for Democracy in Venezuela started in Lima. From this forum in the Peruvian capital, Security Advisor John Bolton ratified that the message to countries and people who still support Nicolás is clear: “Proceed with extreme caution (…) there’s no need to jeopardize your business interests for a corrupt, dying regime.” Bolton said that Nicolás’s actions aren’t those of a legitimate president and that “the atrocities are the actions of a brutal dictator.” He also said that with the dialogue in Barbados, Nicolás “is only buying time. He needs less words and more action.”
So, Where Does That Leave the Dialogue?
Contrary to Bolton’s message, caretaker President Juan Guaidó assured that the dialogue process continues: “The Norwegian kingdom’s mechanism continues because what we’re generating is the conditions for a real solution to the crisis.” Guaidó also said that these sanctions are exclusively directed to Nicolás’s regime, that they won’t prevent buying medicine and food, that the “action has its exceptions” including protecting the private sector that “doesn’t do business with a dictatorship that has always attacked the productive apparatus.”
For the record: the Treasury Department’s OFAC’s statement emphasized its commitment to the unlimited flow of humanitarian aid for the Venezuelan people, allowing transactions related to humanitarian aid, including: “Activities related to food, agricultural products, medicine and medical equipment, non-commercial, personal remittances, international organizations, telecommunications and mail, internet, medical services, and NGOs.”
“Maduro’s dictatorship must end so Venezuela can have a stable, democratic and prosperous future, free of the horrors of socialism that have devastated this great country,” says the White House statement. Vice-President Mike Pence said that his “commitment with the Venezuelan people in their fight for freedom remains unfaltering.” Elliott Abrams, special envoy for Venezuela, said in Lima that “nobody in Washington thought that the regime would fall in two days (…) In January, the regime wouldn’t have attended the conversations that took place in Oslo later, that’s a symbol that they’re admitting their problems. They also know that they have no solution for the country’s problems,” establishing the differences between the exercise of Norway’s mediation versus past experiences. Abrams said that “it won’t last much long if there’s no progress towards an agreement.”
Carlos Vecchio, ambassador before the U.S. said: “In every interaction that I’ve had with every U.S. institution and agency, they’ve manifested the commitment to execute more actions against Maduro’s government.”
A Common Block
“The region can’t keep being affected by the weight of this crisis that has turned a country so rich in resources into a mess,” said the Peruvian Foreign Minister Néstor Popolizio, in the International Conference for Democracy in Venezuela inauguration. Popolizio asked that the meeting became a “milestone for the international community to take a leap of action, with efforts that aren’t free of risks.” Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo asked for more help to manage the Venezuelan migration crisis and more sanctions to pressure Maduro’s regime, mentioning “significant progress” in a process that he assured they’ll keep supporting.
Jorge Faurie, Argentinian Foreign minister, said that our crisis has “implications for peace, security and stability of the region and global repercussions.” The forum holds delegations from 59 countries and three international organizations, even though chavismo (in another boring exercise of projection) assures it was a failure, where only “the embassies’ doormen” attended.
At least on social media, the common reaction has been concern for the negative implications of these sanctions, especially for the lack of information and reliable interpretations. Chavismo’s narrative stuck and that’s why, I insist, it’s unforgivable that they play the victim card, because it means that the people responsible for an entire country’s devastation found the perfect excuse for the decay of a country that has already collapsed because of their terrible government and corruption. The fears that people mention the most can be summarized: the sanctions will worsen our problems and strengthen authoritarian regimes. To contradict this idea, economist Alejandro Grisanti, director of Pdvsa’s ad hoc board, tweeted that in 2018, 97.8% of the revenue from oil exports stayed in Nicolás’s hands. “Only 2.2% of the income was sold to citizens. Maduro has been imposing a currency embargo on Venezuelans for a long time,” he said. But this matter won’t end here.
This Tuesday marked the first anniversary of deputy Juan Requesens’s arbitrary detention, accused of being allegedly tied to an attempted attack against Nicolás. May his case serve as one of the stories that could be documented if the IACHR manages to visit the country to evaluate the human rights situation. 122 civil society organizations back and expect this IACHR visit.