On January 29th, US President Donald Trump’s public events schedule is completely vacant. More than likely, the POTUS will spend the day if not more discussing the regime change policy and efforts aimed at Venezuela.
On the previous day, Trump signed an executive order aimed at “Taking Additional Steps to Address the National Emergency with Respect to Venezuela.”
“The Executive Order I have issued accounts for the swearing in of a legitimate Interim President of Venezuela, and addresses actions by persons affiliated with the illegitimate Maduro regime, including human rights violations and abuses in response to anti-Maduro protests, arbitrary arrest and detention of anti‑Maduro protestors, curtailment of press freedom, harassment of political opponents, and continued attempts to undermine the Interim President of Venezuela and undermine the Venezuelan National Assembly,” the Presidential Message accompanying the order stated.
Shortly thereafter, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), pursuing the abovementioned executive order.
Treasury sanctions Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A (PdVSA) to intensify pressure on Maduro regime and regime insiders: https://t.co/CqOLxNShQl
— Treasury Department (@USTreasury) January 28, 2019
“The United States is holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline, and will continue to use the full suite of its diplomatic and economic tools to support Interim President Juan Guaidó, the National Assembly, and the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore their democracy,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin. “Today’s designation of PdVSA will help prevent further diverting of Venezuela’s assets by Maduro and preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela. The path to sanctions relief for PdVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the Interim President or a subsequent, democratically elected government.”
The state-owned oil company had “has long been a vehicle for corruption. A variety of schemes have been designed to embezzle billions of dollars from PdVSA for the personal gain of corrupt Venezuelan officials and businessmen. For example, a 2014 currency exchange scheme was designed to embezzle and launder around $600 million from PdVSA, money obtained through bribery and fraud. By May 2015, the conspiracy had allegedly doubled in amount, to $1.2 billion embezzled from PdVSA.”
Some misconduct was traced back between 2011 and 2013. However, the US only took action now, because it hadn’t needed to pressure Venezuela for a regime change prior to this.
Sanctions on individuals, operating the oil sector in Venezuela may also be sanctioned in the near future.
This followed sanctions on 7 individuals allegedly closely related to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on January 8th.
On January 28th, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton spoke to reporters regarding the situation in Venezuela. Bolton said nothing new in general, repeating the same strong rhetoric aimed at regime change.
However, the contents of one page on his notebook could be seen. The contents show something that strongly resembles “Afghanistan” and “5,000 troops to Colombia.”
USA Today reported that it had asked a White House spokesman for comment, but no denial or confirmation was given to possible troop deployment in Colombia.
Trump said that “all options are on the table” when asked last week if the U.S. was prepared to intervene militarily.
A spokeswoman for the Colombian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Earlier, Colombia claimed that it would not allowed US bases on its soil for a possible intervention in Venezuela.
On the same day, Bolton announced that Brazil received its first batch of humanitarian aid, while being praised for standing in recognition of Venezuelan self-proclaimed Interim President Juan Guaido.
First humanitarian aid to Brazil, now a strong stand in recognition of Venezuela’s legitimate democratic leadership—great to have Israeli support for a prosperous Western Hem! https://t.co/qfskOFJP9U
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) January 28, 2019
He also praised Israel, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed the country’s support for “the new leadership in Venezuela.”
In a surprising turn of events, however, on January 29th, New Zealand expressed its opposition to the regime change in Venezuela.
New Zealand’s foreign minister, Winston Peters, has refused to add New Zealand’s name to the list backing Guaidó. “It is not New Zealand’s practice to make statements of recognition of governments,” Peters said.
“Venezuela needs to decide its future through free and fair elections. This government expressed concerns about Venezuela’s elections in 2018, and these concerns remain.”
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern later justified her stance, saying that on her recent trip to Europe “absolutely no one expressed concern” that New Zealand’s decision differed from that of its allies.
“What we do as a country, and rightly so, is call out human rights abuses … it is absolutely clear that people are suffering under the current regime and that they deserve access to their democratic rights and freedoms.”