Only two hours ago and before a sizeable audience at the prestigious Hudson Institute, here in Washington, I had the opportunity to talk about the Venezuelan situation, sharing the panel with Gabriela Febres Cordero, Boris Saavedra and Ruben Perina. I believe the full recording of the event will be available shortly at hudson.org.
I attach below a digest of what I said in this event.
Venezuelans are walking the walk
The country is in ruins. No food, no medicines, 26,000 violent deaths per year and an almost 1000% yearly inflation rate. Oil production has collapsed and PDVSA, the state-owned oil company is in default with providers. Over one million Venezuelans have left the country.
Venezuela is a political satellite of Castro’s Cuba. At least 15000 Cuban military personnel are running the show in Venezuela. It started with Fidel tutoring Chávez, now Raul tutors Maduro.
Venezuela used to be a petro state. Today is a narco state. Members of the Armed Forces run drug trafficking, the contraband of gasoline to neighboring countries and the distribution of food, pocketing immense profits. They even have an “oil company” that serves as an intermediary with the companies that do the actual work for PDVSA, in order to obtain kickbacks.
The closing by the Maduro regime of all electoral alternatives has generated an open civic rebellion. 107 protesters have been killed by the Armed Forces and the regime’s armed hooligans. Another 400 are being illegally tried in military courts. Thousands have been put in prison. The protesters are marching, erecting barricades and, even, throwing homemade “bombs” at the National Guard. The confrontation has become, almost, an asymmetrical civil war. The object of the rebellion is to accelerate the exit of the regime.
In July 16 Venezuelans organized a popular referendum all over the world, in which 7.5 million Venezuelans voted against the regime. At the same time Maduro has been promoting a Constituent Assembly, to be “elected” next Sunday July 30, that would have the power to rewrite the constitution (it is probably already written and they would only need to endorse it), so that the narco regime can officially become a communist narcoregime. This initiative by Maduro will accelerate the final confrontation since it is not only illegal but designed to create utter political and social chaos in the country.
Some political leaders in Venezuela and abroad have been promoting “an understanding” with the regime. These leaders willing to talk the talk include the Pope, the Secretary General of the U.N. and segments of the international diplomatic community. They express their “hope” that the two sides can sit and negotiate a way out. In parallel, member countries of PetroCaribe and ALBA, two organizations financed by the Venezuelan regime, block all initiatives in the OAS against Maduro.
Fortunately 20 of the most important western hemisphere countries, led by Canada and Mexico, are now taking a strong stand against the Venezuelan regime. The U.S. administration is also becoming more active. Some European countries have suggested that they would withdraw recognition to the Maduro regime if he goes ahead with his plans for a Constituent. OAS Secretary General Almagro has just published a third report on Venezuela in which he accuses the whole structure of the regime of being infiltrated by narco trafficking and defines the top leadership of the government as a gang of criminals.
This is where we are at this moment in time. What could happen and what should happen?
1. Maduro could call back his Constituent Assembly at the last minute and ask to negotiate. A negotiation would be highly beneficial for Maduro and, in my opinion, should not take place, as it would lead to undue concessions to the criminals. Did Eisenhower negotiate with the Nazis?
2. In parallel, without waiting for Maduro’s move, the governments of the region should withdraw diplomatic recognition of the Maduro regime. The U.S. should apply sanctions against individual who have violated human rights or engaged in corrupt practices. The U.S. should also apply sanctions against the imports of Venezuelan oil and the exports of gasoline to the Venezuelan regime (about 80,000 barrels per day of gasoline are being sent to Venezuela by U.S. refiners). This is a very controversial move that is opposed by many respectable Venezuelans but I believe they should be implemented, using the proper strategies to minimize the potential effects on the Venezuelan people.
3. Extreme political pressure should be applied to the Cuban regime to “persuade” Maduro to call for elections and to free all political prisoners. Cuba no longer has anything to gain from the association with Maduro.
4. The Venezuelan people should install a parallel government to force the outside world to decide which one to support.
Venezuelans are today walking the walk. Since the government is incapable of illuminating the road, citizens are being forced to walk under the light of their own torches.
The international community should stop talking the talk and start walking together with the people of Venezuela.
We had a lively session on questions and answers and I believe the audience left with a good level of information on what is going on in Venezuela at this moment.