Thanks to the Grayzone, an independent news and politics website by renowned journalist Max Blumenthal, we have a glimpse into Washington's mindset when it comes to Venezuela. As you will see in this posting, Washington is quite proud of its punishment of Venezuela and its 32 million people and brags about how its actions have led to its desired (and painful) outcomes.
The document that you are about to see is entitled "U.S. Actions on Venezuela" and is a fact sheet published by the United States Department of State dated April 24, 2019, just prior to the failed coup attempt. Here is the link to the document and screen captures showing the document that was subsequently removed from this webpage:
The document lists the sanctions that the United States has made for individuals and entities in Venezuela since Donald Trump took office in 2017 with one listing prior to his administration. Sofar, there are over 150 designated individuals and entities. The one exception, Executive Order 13692, was put in place by Barack Obama to punish Venezuela's government for erosion of human rights, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms and violence against antigovernment protests as shown here:
In 2019 alone, there have been 10 additional sets of sanctioned individuals and entities.
The document notes that, on January 24, 2019, 16 members (including the United States) of the Organization of American States (OAS) recognized that Juan Guaido was the interim President of Venezuela and that, on March 27, 2019, 19 members voted in favour of humanitarian assistance in Venezuela. It is interesting to note that there are 35 member nations in the OAS meaning that in the first case, a minority of members voted with the United States and in the second case, a slim majority of members voted with the United States. These facts are not mentioned in the State Department document. The document also looks at how the United Nations and Lima Group have tried to manipulate the situation in Venezuela, in particular the vote at the U.N. Security Council on February 28, 2019 on Draft Resolution S/2019/186 which was quashed by Russia and China. Here's what Russia's representative Nebenzia had to say:
The United States delegation cannot possibly be unaware that its draft resolution has no chance of being adopted and yet has deliberately submitted it to the Council so that afterwards it can point fingers at those who it claims are obstructing the “restoration of democracy” in Venezuela. It is now deliberately undermining the Council’s unity. But does it need it? Our American colleagues seem to have forgotten what international law is. All they have left in their diplomatic arsenal is ultimatums, sanctions and threats of the use of force." (my bolds)
Now, let's back and take a closer look at the bottom line of the Fact Sheet, the key outcomes of Washington's efforts in Venezuela during the first four months of 2019:
1.) Governments recognizing Juan Guaido as president – After Juan Guaido announced his interim presidency in January 2019, a total of 54 nations have recognized him as interim president. Keeping in mind that there are 193 member states in the United Nations, we can see that just over one-quarter of the world has proclaimed its support for Mr. Guaido, hardly a ringing endorsement.
2.) Members of the Venezuelan military recognizing Juan Guaido as president – According to the document, 1000 members of Venezuela's military have recognized Juan Guaido's interim presidency. According to Global Firepower, Venezuela has an estimated 128,000 military personnel with 120,000 active members meaning that the 1000 defectors represent just 0.078 percent of the total.
3.) Oil Production and Sales – Venezuela's oil production has now fallen to 736,000 BOPD in March 2019, a decline of 48.4 percent on a year-over-year basis. Here is a graphic from the Energy Information Administration showing what has happened to Venezuela's oil (crude oil and liquids) production since 1980:
Between 2017 and 2018, average daily production fell from 2.057 million BOPD to 1.516 million BOPD.
This declining production has cut oil revenues to the Maduro government. As well, according to the Fact Sheet, there are 25 crude oil tankers with 12 million barrels of oil (worth roughly $700 million) on board stranded off the coast of Venezuela because they cannot find buyers for the oil thanks to American-led sanctions. Here is a map from Marine Traffic showing how many tankers are located offshore
4.) Freezing of Financial Assets – Approximately $3.2 billion of Venezuela's overseas assets are frozen and diplomatic pressure by the United States has made it difficult for Venezuela to sell its gold. Here is a graphic showing Venezuela's gold reserves and how they have declined as rounds of sanctions took hold of its economy:
According to Kitco, the Maduro government was forced to sell off a substantial part of Venezuela's gold reserves in 2018 to keep the government running, thanks to the negative impact of sanctions on its economy. The country still has 161.22 tonnes of gold in reserve, less than half of its total reserves of 357 tonnes in the mid-2000s but diplomatic pressure killed a recent sale of 15 tonnes of gold to the United Arab Emirates. In 2018, Venezuela produced 23 tonnes of gold so, provided that its mines continue to operate, if it can sell its gold internationally, the current government can inject some life into its economy.
Here is another take on Venezuela's economy from the Department of State that they have not removed from their website:
"The economy is quickly spiraling downward. Inflation is projected to hit 1 million percent by the end of 2018 and the minimum monthly wage is equal to about $1 on the black market. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, but mismanagement of the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, has resulted in significant deterioration of infrastructure and production capacity. What was once one of Latin America’s strongest economies is now unable to support itself." (my bolds)
Thanks to sanctions, that is true.
5.) Health Care Provision – Thanks to American largesse, a total of 6000 Venezuelans benefitted from medical care provided at 18 health fairs held in over 15 communities. While this may seem laudable, out of a population of 32 million people, it represents a paltry 0.019 percent of the population. The $71 million spent on development and humanitarian assistance since Fiscal 2017 has certainly done very little given this quote from what still does appear on State's website under Venezuela:
"As a result of the political and economic crises, there is a growing humanitarian crisis. Unable to choose their government at the ballot box, Venezuelans are using their feet to vote. More than two million Venezuelans have left their country since 2016 and nearly 280,000 have applied for asylum globally since 2014. Within the country, a severe shortage of food and medical supplies has resulted in the average Venezuelan losing 24 pounds and around 90 percent of hospitals are without basic medical necessities. People in Venezuela are facing disrupted water and sanitation services and there are serious public health concerns following outbreaks of once eradicated diseases in the region. In July 2018, nurses went on strike for almost a month demanding provisions and supplies for the hospitals." (my bold)
Washington is extremely proud of its "nation rebuilding at any cost" achievements in Venezuela but isn't too anxious to let us know just how brutal they are as shown in this document which was removed from the Department of State website. The fact that tens of millions of Venezuelas are suffering because of the American-led sanctions regime seems to not bother either Mike Pompeo or John Bolton; they are just standing in the way of getting the job of redesigning Venezuela in America's image.
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