Venezuela Weekly: Bolton and Trump Declarations Roil Venezuelan Opposition

The chapter on Venezuela in former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book as well as U.S. President Donald Trump’s interview with Axios roiled Venezuelan politics, with just about everyone outside of Interim President Juan Guaidó’s inner circle grasping at something to support their views.

  • Miami-based Panampost.es emphasized that Trump wanted to invade Venezuela but was dissuaded by Bolton who they now refer to as a traitor. They also emphasize how Trump has lost faith in Guaidó.
  • The Maduro government’s ambassador to the United Nations Samuel Moncada left pinned to his Twitter account a scan of the pages where Bolton says Trump said it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela and keep it since “it’s really part of the United States.”
  • Others emphasized the potential for a renewed negotiation process in Trump’s statements to Axios that he would be willing to meet with Maduro.

All of these are probably over-interpretations, as the clearest takeaways seem to be: how lightly Trump seems to take Venezuela and Guaidó, how poorly informed the administration is about Venezuela, and how little planning they have done for anything other than a quick push for regime change. This is perhaps even more troubling for an opposition coalition that has sought to convince itself and the population that the U.S. has a strong and meaningful bipartisan commitment to the interim government, and that Trump has a deep personal commitment to seeing a change in Venezuela.

In the following days, the Whitehouse walked back Bolton’s revelations and Trump’s own comments to say that they had not lost confidence in Guaidó. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated support for Guaidó, which was promoted by the interim government.

Biden saw an opportunity in Trump’s suggestions that he might be open to meeting with Maduro and tweeted that Trump “admires thugs and dictators like Nicolás Maduro” and that he [Biden] “will stand with the Venezuelan people and for democracy.” Trump in turn responded that he would only meet with Maduro to discuss the latter’s peaceful exit from power.

Political Crisis

  • The International Contact Group (ICG) held a virtual meeting on June 24 among high-level diplomats and Special Advisor Enrique Iglesias. They released a statement criticizing the Supreme Court’s naming of the new National Electoral Council and new directors of opposition political parties, and urged the regime to stop unilateral actions. They called “on both sides to engage in meaningful and inclusive negotiations.”
  • International Crisis Group argues that negotiations remain the only route to solve the country’s protracted political crisis. The Crisis Group considers that outside parties such as the EU should have continued engagement with the country and should focus on the medium-term outlook.
  • Despite the charge towards abstaining from elections, some important voices have injected heterodox into the discussion, suggesting careful consideration of the vote and what the opposition’s future looks like if they abstain. See Julio Borges, Henrique Capriles and Stalin González.

Sanctions

  • Venezuela continues to have trouble unloading its oil leading some full tankers to be stranded at sea, and Venezuela running up demurrage charges.
  • The Treasury Department sanctioned the five Iranian ship captains that brought gasoline to Iran late last month.

Human Rights

  • Foro Penal and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights released a report that points out how the Maduro government is increasingly using forced disappearances as a means to intimidate opponents, including 524 last year.

Humanitarian Emergency

  • The United Nations and Switzerland delivered 94 tons of humanitarian aid to Venezuela, helping the country in its efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic. The aid was mainly medical supplies, water, sanitation and hygiene supplies. So far the UN has sent to Venezuela over 700 tons of humanitarian aid.
  • The Atlantic Council ran a piece underlying the situation of women in the Venezuela crisis. It resonates with WOLA’s Kristen Martínez-Gugglieri’s three part series earlier this month.

Covid-19

  • The Venezuelan authorities have reported 4,186 cases of COVID-19 throughout the country and 35 deaths. The country is currently under seven days quarantine. The government argues this move is necessary given the increase of cases in recent weeks.
  • Reuters has reported that the western Zulia state has emerged as a hot spot for the COVID-19 pandemic due to crumbling state and health infrastructure.
  • Various organizations in the region are warning about the adverse effects of the pandemic in indigenous communities of Latin America, including those in Venezuela.
  • Recent data show that the indigenous people in the Amazonian area are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as the non-indigenous population.

Migration

Economy

  • Nicolas Maduro and the President of the National Assembly Juan Guaido are in a legal battle in London about the future of $1.8bn of Venezuelan gold deposited in the Bank of England. The Maduro government says they will sell the gold and transfer the money to the UN development program to combat the Covid-19 pandemic in Venezuela.
  • An Iranian cargo ship loaded with food docked near Caracas, with the Iranian government arguing that Iran will open its first Iranian supermarket in the country soon.