(Note: The writer is answering the question: “Is the U.S. push to unseat Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro the right course?”)
WASHINGTON — Last weekend, the Bank of England blocked Nicolas Maduro from withdrawing $1.2 billion worth of gold from a Venezuelan state account.
That action followed the United Kingdom’s decision to recognize Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela. Maduro will experience similar banking troubles elsewhere, as 52 countries — including the majority of nations in South America, North America and Europe — now recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s lawful leader.
That recognition matters. In the U.S. and all those other nations, Guaido now has the ability to name diplomats and handle the country’s financial affairs.
While things go south for Maduro abroad, his stock is also tanking back home. His socialist regime has pillaged and bled the country dry. He retained his presidency last year only by rigging the elections.
Now, anti-government protests are rocking dozens of cities in Venezuela, as millions of his countrymen demand his departure. The size, scale and magnitude of these demonstrations far exceed anything seen in Venezuela’s 20 years of socialist misrule. Not every country is onboard with a democratic transition in Venezuela.
Cuba, Russia, China and Syria — as well as the Palestinian Authority and the terrorist organization Hezbollah — have strongly condemned calls for Maduro’s resignation.
Still, the pressure is getting to Maduro’s government. Over the weekend, his chief diplomats in Washington, Houston and Miami abandoned the sinking ship and pledged their loyalty to Guaido.
Despite broad bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress for resolving Venezuela’s crisis, certain members continue supporting the Maduro regime.
Leftist claims of Guaido being a self-appointed puppet of the U.S are inaccurate. His interim presidency is constitutional, a reflection of the people’s will. Maduro’s presidency has been neither for years.
Nor is it accurate to claim that U.S. policy aims to destroy the Venezuelan economy. U.S. sanctions are targeted specifically against regime officials for corruption, human rights abuses and narco trafficking.
The U.S. also forbids purchasing Venezuelan gold, a lucrative industry for corrupt officials.
The recently announced oil sanctions take things a step further. The U.S. is now blocking Maduro from receiving all cash flow derived from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company — Petroleos de Venezuela or PVDA.
That income will be handed over to the government once the interim president assumes office.
Following U.S. recognition of Guaido, Venezuelan government bank accounts in the U.S. were placed under Guaido’s control as well. He has established a government in exile and appointed a U.S. representative and ambassador to the Organization of American States.
As interim president, he is responsible for leading Venezuela through a transition and preparing for its first free and fair election in nearly two decades.
For the U.S., it is imperative that Maduro step down. He and his cronies have turned Venezuela into an international drug trafficking hub. The U.S. Treasury has designated high ranking officials like Maduro’s former vice president, his attorney general and his secretary of homeland security as drug trafficking kingpins.
Accordingly, the U.S. has seized $500 million in narcotics related assets from the vice president. And Maduro’s own nephews are currently serving prison sentences in the U.S. for attempting to sell drugs to an undercover DEA agent.
While Venezuelans starve, Maduro’s regime has enriched itself by trafficking drugs throughout Latin America and into the U.S., often colluding with violent cartels that have left a high body count in their trail.
The regime also openly supports regional and international terrorist movements, like Colombia’s deadly Revolutionary Armed Forces, National Liberation Army and Iran’s equally murderous Hezbollah.
All three are designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S.
Latin American security and stability is good for Latin American and good for the U.S. For 20 years, Venezuela’s socialist leaders have wreaked havoc in the hemisphere. The Trump administration is justified for mounting a pressure campaign against them. Venezuela and its people deserve an opportunity at freedom.
Ana Quintana is an analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. Readers may write her at Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. 20002-4999.