The dust has pretty much settled from the failed delivery of large quantities of food and medical aid into Venezuela this past weekend. The ruling Socialists United of Venezuela (PSUV) has opted to dig in their heels. Their mission seems to be to turn the country into Cuba. They have no other attainable long-term goal at this point.
From the point of view of PSUV, the humanitarian aid from the U.S. shipped in from Brazil and Colombia was mainly designed to provoke tensions and make president Nicolas Maduro look bad. Jorge Arreaza, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said images of trucks catching fire over a bridge route into his country was a “CIA false flag.”
Univision reporter Jorge Ramos—who on any given day is more Team Maduro than Team Trump—was taken into custody by Venezuelan authorities late Monday evening. He was freed shortly after. Ramos reportedly showed Maduro images of locals fishing through garbage for food.
Videos circulating on WhatsApp of a truck carrying aid in Santa Elena in Bolivar state, on the Brazilian border, showed three armored national guard trucks chasing it down the road and shooting at it on Calle Urdaneta, right outside the tiny Hotel La Abuela.
This weekend made it clear that Maduro is officially a member of the anti-Trump #resistance. He has significant numbers in his military, along with PSUV politicians and state employees, believing that they are next in line for Middle East-style regime change.
Senator Marco Rubio was over the top in his comparison of Venezuela to the Middle East on Sunday when he went so far as to tweet out two pictures of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi—one of him smiling and healthy, and the other of him badly bloodied and bruised before he was murdered in the streets.
Yankee Go Home is the obvious mantra for Maduro and Company. The military has circled the wagons to protect Maduro. The rank-and-file did not desert en masse as people like Rubio had hoped.
Maduro has no choice now but to keep resisting. And to continue promoting the narrative that he is a victim of American imperial overreach, a narrative as easy to sell as the next Star Wars movie.
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence said on the FOX Business Network’s Trish Regan Primetime program that Maduro “must go.”
“In the wake of the brutality this weekend, where literally the dictator Maduro was dancing in Caracas at the same time that his henchmen were burning truckloads of food and medicine, I believe has only steeled the resolve of the nations across this hemisphere and around the world to stand strong in our conviction that Nicolas Maduro is a usurper, he has no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolas Maduro must go,” he said to Regan from Bogota.
Pence reiterated his support for offering amnesty to military defectors.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido met with Pence over the weekend to figure out how to regain democratic control over the country.
There is some dispute that Maduro should not have been president following the death of Hugo Chavez in Havana, Cuba, in 2013. The Constitution of 1999 states that when a president becomes incapacitated, as was the cancer-battling Chavez, a new election should be called within 30 days. That literally took three years to happen, and then was postponed until Maduro was able to get the Supreme Court to disqualify every possible leading opposition candidate who wished to run against him.
In May 2018, Maduro was elected to a second six-year term.
Maduro was never elected in a competitive race by a fully recognized popular vote.
Guiado declared himself interim president on January 10. Some 50 nations no longer recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s leader.
The so-called Lima Group met in Bogota on Monday vowing “to find a peaceful solution” to a political crisis that has the National Assembly usurped by Maduro’s Constituents Assembly, a body of political yesmen and yeswomen. The economy is in year three of its Great Depression.
Peru’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hugo de Zela came out against Guaido’s call for an “any means necessary” approach to resolving the crisis, which was taken to mean U.S. intervention. Colombia’s President Ivan Duque called for a “more powerful and effective” way to get Maduro to step down. Guaido warned that “indulging” Maduro “would be a threat to all of America,” AFP reported.
Pressure on Maduro and PSUV will continue from Washington. Treasury sanctioned new individuals from the establishment on Monday.
“We assume intimidation tactics with joint military exercises between the U.S. and Venezuelan’s neighbors, with Colombia especially motivated and well equipped after years of fighting against narco-terrorism,” says Siobhan Morden, head of Latin America fixed-income strategy for Nomura Securities.
See: These Women Have The Venezuela Story Down Pat — Forbes
A more drawn-out crisis was always a possibility, but now that Maduro has succeeded in shutting out aid, this possibility seems more probable than it did a week ago.
Alejandro Arreaza of Barclays Capital predicted last week that Maduro would no longer be in power by June, or out within 90 days.
What Venezuela post-Maduro looks like is the prerequisite for the next phase of economic recovery and negotiations with bondholders. Venezuela needs to settle the score on its defaulted debt before the big multilateral institutions can come in with financial muscle to build the country up again.
PdVSA bondholders are in limbo. There are increasing concerns about a de-indexation of Venezuela/PdVSA bonds on the JP Morgan EMBI. Such a move would force funds to sell those securities and lock in a steep loss.
Morden says that Treasury could reconsider trading restrictions under the context of a longer than expected Maduro government.
Following last night’s detainment of Mexican journalist Ramos, Venezuela could lose the support of that country’s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. If he does, it would mean Maduro only has Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua on his side in Latin America. Some smaller nations have remained neutral. All of the economic powers in South America have called on Maduro to step down in favor of new elections.