The United States hasn’t imposed a total economic embargo against another Western Hemisphere nation in more than 30 years. But it’s been longer than that since our hemisphere has seen such a disastrous combination of tyranny and economic collapse as we’re seeing right now in Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela.
It’s far from certain that this will be the measure necessary to drive Maduro from power, but it’s nevertheless a very big measure that will affect not only the U.S. and Venezuela but domestic and foreign actors everywhere who try to do business with Venezuela:
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President Trump late Monday signed an executive order freezing all government assets and prohibiting transactions with it, unless specifically exempted, the first action of its kind against a government in the Western Hemisphere in more than 30 years. The move places Venezuela on a par with North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba, the only other countries currently under such stringent U.S. measures.
Since the onset of Venezuela’s political crisis this year, the U.S. has imposed sanctions on more than 100 individuals and entities, including state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA, the Venezuelan Development Bank and Venezuela’s central bank. The new move threatens to target and impose sanctions on virtually any company or individual, foreign or American, that engages in business or offers support to anyone affiliated with the Maduro government, the official said. It isn’t designed to target the people of Venezuela, including their access to remittances.
This is similar to the measures currently in place against Iran in this respect: We can’t necessarily stop anyone who decides to go ahead and do business with either country, but what we can do is cut them off from access to our markets and our financial system. People have to decide if they want to do business with the United States or with these countries. Rational thought playing any role whatsoever, that’s not a hard decision.
But will this be enough to extricate Maduro from power? By itself, it will not. Maduro is clinging to power because his Cuban-trained and Cuban-controlled military refuses to allow anything or anyone to depose him.
You’ve heard stories over the past several months of military officers falling away, defecting to the side of National Assembly leader Juan Guaido and his accurate claim that, according to the nation’s constitution, he is Venezuela’s legitimate interim president. And you probably thought this would make a difference, and ended up wondering why it didn’t.
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That’s because the upper echelon commanders answer to Raul Castro, and he doesn’t want Maduro going anywhere. I’m not sure how this embargo changes that.
But it will create issues for Russia, China, Turkey and other rogue nations who continue to support and bankroll Maduro. They may not stop just because of the embargo, but they’re going to face additional headaches as a consequence. And eventually they are going to have to consider whether those headaches are worth it to prop this guy up.
Much of what motivates these nations to support Maduro is access to Venezuela’s oil, but part of it as well is simply the fact that he creates a strategic nightmare for the United States in our own hemisphere, and these nations that are not our friends like that very much. Do they like it enough, though, to keep perpetuating the misery of the Venezuelan people and living with the reality that Maduro can’t really govern or lead, and that they’ll always have to stand between him and what the people there really want?
Meanwhile, Bernie and AOC continue to seek for the United States what Maduro and Hugo Chavez before him did to Venezuela. Must be nice to be that divorced from reality, and apparently suffer no consequences as a result.