First published in página12.org.ar on Aug. 7. Translation by Michael Otto.
President Donald Trump has taken a new step to strangle Venezuela: He signed an executive order Aug. 5 to freeze Venezuelan assets in the United States. “All assets and interests of the Venezuelan government that are in the U.S. are blocked and cannot be transferred, purchased, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise negotiated,” the text states.
Trump announced his decision a few days after he said he was evaluating the possibility of imposing a “quarantine” against Venezuela. In that way Venezuela joins the list of countries facing attacks from Washington, including Cuba, Iran, Syria and North Korea.
“This is the first time in 30 years that we are imposing an asset freeze against a government in this hemisphere. … It worked in Panama, it worked once in Nicaragua, and it’s going to work there again, and it’s going to work in Venezuela and Cuba,” said U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton in Lima, Peru on Aug. 6.
This economic measure is one more step on the road taken beginning with the presidential decree that Barack Obama signed in 2015. This year it escalated to the highest level that an economic blockade can reach. Thus, Venezuelan state accounts in the U.S. were frozen and assets like those of the oil company CITGO were stolen. PDVSA [Venezuela’s state-owned oil company] is the largest shareholder [in CITGO]. Food import chains were also cut, in addition to other unilateral actions.
The majority of the opposition forces welcomed Trump’s decision, including Juan Guaidó [the self-nominated “president” of Venezuela], who claimed that [the blockade] will affect only the government and not the Venezuelan population.
Bolton, who attended a meeting [of 60 countries] convened by the Peruvian government as part of the Lima Group, said: “We take this step to deny [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro access to the global financial system and to further isolate him internationally. We want to send a message to third parties wanting to do business with the Maduro regime: There’s no need to risk your business interests in the U.S.” (New York Times, Aug. 6)
Washington’s decision came a week after the Bolivarian government and the opposition [forces] held their fifth meeting in Barbados, which was mediated by the Norwegian government. In this regard, Bolton said: “We will not fall into these old tricks of a tired dictator…. Now is the time for action.” [apnews.com, Aug. 7]
Washington’s two-pronged attack
Thus, the North American government gave two signals within 24 hours with a single aim: the attack on the Barbados dialogues and the twofold economic assault against the Venezuelan government, as Washington claims. But in reality, [the latter] is aimed against the Venezuelan economy and population as a whole.
Washington’s statements were aimed simultaneously against the governments of Russia and China. [Bolton declared] that support for the Venezuelan government “could affect the payment of its debt after the fall of Maduro.” (Orinoco Tribune, Aug. 6)
This geopolitical dimension takes on a pivotal role, since the support of both governments for constitutional order — and consequently, for Maduro — has provided diplomatic and economic support, as well as deterrence, in confronting various U.S. actions.
The Venezuelan government, through Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, described Trump’s executive order as a “new and serious aggression.” Vice President Delcy Rodríguez asserted at a press conference that the sanctions would “affect public and private entities and the availability of the country’s foreign currency, completely violating international law and endangering the lives of Venezuelans.”
The U.S. [government] maintains that its actions seek to accelerate the tempo in order to force Nicolás Maduro’s departure before the presidential elections. Diverse siege operations are increasing. They are diplomatic, military [unauthorized flights over Venezuelan airspace], economic and open threats against other countries [especially Cuba, Russia and China] that are allied with Caracas. The option of dialogue leading to a negotiated agreement does not appear to be on the U.S. list of options in this phase of the conflict.