Venezuela 2019 Coup - Week 2 - 28 January
28 January 2019
The new US measures against Venezuela include the freezing of some US$ 7 billion dollars in assets of the Venezuelan state oil company (PDVSA), in addition to an estimated loss of US$11 billion dollars of exports over the next few years. The sanctions are applied to the Venezuelan government; to any political organizations; state agencies, including the Bank of Venezuela and PDVSA; as well as to any person acting in the interest of the "government of Nicolas Maduro."
Treasury Secretary Steve Manuchin informed that the revenues from Venezuelan oil sold to the United States would go directly to blocked accounts. Moreover, all the sales of oil which had already been paid for and that are currently stationed at sea could arrive at U.S. refineries but new purchases could only take place under the new terms. “If the people of Venezuela want to continue to sell us oil, as long as that money goes to blocked accounts, we’ll continue to take it. Otherwise, we will not be buying it [oil],” said Manuchin. This is part of a U.S. strategy to choke the Venezuelan government and to bolster Guaido with whom it shares the interest of deposing President Maduro by all means necessary.
Nicolas Maduro accused U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton of pressuring for the country’s coup. Washington’s new round of sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA announced in a press briefing triggered a response from Maduro later that evening during a televised speech aired from Caracas. The Bolivarian president said, “I can say that Washington's response in the first place was always the same (...) financial diplomatic persecutions and rejection.... Last Saturday we reached an agreement with the Government of Donald Trump, in an exchange of official and diplomatic documents, establishing a negotiation to leave open our offices of interests”.
The threat of a military option prompted Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, Jorge Valero, to accuse the U.S. administration of preparing a "military invasion." Hours earlier, Trump's national security adviser added to speculation about an intervention by flashing around a note with the words "5,000 troops to Colombia" written on it. Analysts suspect that was an effort by Bolton to intimidate, a bid to frighten Maduro from ordering a widespread crackdown. Bluff can have a role in trying to shift the power dynamic too, they say.
29 January 2019
In a further move to overthrow the Venezuelan government bringing to power the self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, the United States government started diverting the oil revenues of the country to the opposition leader. The first time an official from the U.S. government made the announcement appears to be from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, known within his party for being inconsistent yet highly influential in the White House’s policy toward Venezuela, who may have taken the lead, basing his claims on a Wall Street Journal report on the issue. Rubio stated "The U.S. has given control of U.S. bank accounts of the Venezuelan government & Venezuelan Central Bank over to the legitimate government of Interim President."
Soon after, the U.S. Treasury and the National Security Adviser John Bolton made official announcements confirming that President Nicolas Maduro’s government would be “disconnected” from resources and that these would be redirected to Guaido. The U.S. targeting of Venezuela's state-owned energy company has a clear surgical purpose — to shift control of the country's oil wealth to Guaido, thereby depriving the disputed president of the funds he needs to cling to power as popular protests against his rule mount. And in particular to stop Maduro from being able to pay his army. Maduro retained the loyalty of army leaders, their fidelity bought with kickbacks and sweetheart deals by Maduro using Venezuela's oil revenue.
Despite the claims of “protecting democracy” in Venezuela, the United States National Security Advisor John Bolton said in an interview that they are backing the coup in the South American country because of oil. “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela,” Bolton told Fox News.
China condemned the economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States and warned that the North American nation must answer for the serious consequences of this measure towards the South American country. "The sanctions of certain countries against Venezuela will deteriorate the lives of the population. They must be responsible for the serious consequences that these sanctions will cause," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang. The diplomat added that China "is opposed to unilateral sanctions" because these measures always complicate the situation and do not facilitate a solution to the problem.
The Attorney General of Venezuela Tareck William Saab reported that a preliminary investigation by the Public Ministry against lawmaker and president of the in-contempt National Assembly, Juan Guaido based on his responsibility in various events that have occurred since January 22, which "have damaged the peace of the Republic, the economy and national pride" he added. Also, the prosecutor, who was at the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), announced that there are precautionary measures for the duration of the investigation, which prohibits Guaido from traveling outside of the country.
30 January 2019
Donald Trump reinforced his "strong support" for efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela during a conversation 30 January 2019 with oppositon leader Juan Guaido, who has proclaimed himself as the country's president. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump and Guaido also committed to maintaining "regular communication to support Venezuela's path back to stability, and to rebuild the bilateral relationship" between the two countries. Trump said earlier Wednesday that embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is willing to negotiate with representatives of Guaido's opposition movement to solve the political crisis in the South American nation, but warned Americans not to travel to Venezuela "until further notice."
Maduro said that the U.S. just wants to seize Venezuela’s oil and mineral resources and that is the reason behind backing the coup and intervention in the Latin American country. "The reason is seizing the oil of Venezuela, because we have the largest oil reserves, we confirm that we have the largest reserves of gold in the world, we have the world’s fourth-largest gas (reserves), have large reserves of coltan , diamonds, aluminum, iron, we have drinking water reserves throughout the national territory, we have energy and natural resources," said the Venezuelan president.
In an opinion piece published by the New York Times, Guaido argued that Venezuela's opposition has had clandestine meetings with members of the military and security forces. "The transition will require support from key military contingents. We have had clandestine meetings with members of the armed forces and the security forces," Guaido said. "The military's withdrawal of support from Mr (President Nicolas) Maduro is crucial to enabling a change in government."
"We won't allow a Vietnam in Latin America," Maduro said. "If the aim of the United States is to invade, they'll have a Vietnam worse than can be imagined." Maduro said he was "willing to sit down for talks with the opposition for the sake of Venezuela's peace and its future... It would be very good to conduct parliamentary elections at an earlier stage".
31 January 2019
The European Parliament recognised Venezuela's self-declared interim president Juan Guaido as de facto head of state on Thursday, heightening international pressure on the OPEC member's socialist President Nicolas Maduro. EU lawmakers voted 429 in favor to 104 against, with 88 abstentions, at a special session in Brussels to recognise Venezuelan congress head Guaido as interim leader. In a statement with the non-binding vote, the parliament urged the bloc's 28 governments to follow suit and consider Guaido "the only legitimate interim president" until there were "new free, transparent and credible presidential elections".
Chavista and pro-government groups came together Jan. 31 to protest interference in Venezuela by the U.S. which includes stealing assets away from the state-run oil agency PDVSA. The large protests took place in downtown Caracas and included workers groups and concerned citizens.
Venezuelan officials said security forces had taken down a "terrorist" group backed by political opponents plotting to assassinate embattled President Nicolas Maduro. Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said that retired National Guard Oswaldo Garcia Palomo was among those detained. Garcia Palomo had been an outspoken critic of Maduro who for months had openly declared his intentions to amass a military force in exile to remove Maduro from power. Palomo's wife Sorbay Padilla said that she last heard from him Sunday after he entered the country clandestinely from Colombia. Reverol accuses Colombian intelligence, the CIA and exiled Venezuelan lawmaker Julio Borges of being behind the alleged mercenary group.
Guaido has thus far managed to avoid arrest and the Supreme Court did not strip him of his legislative immunity, though the new investigation could signal that Maduro's administration is moving to take a more punitive approach. The US envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, warned President Maduro that acting against Juan Guaido would be an "extremely foolish move". Abrams told reporters "The security of interim president Guaido is a concern... The regime has not acted against him in some time and I hope that is because they recognize that he has the support of the vast majority of Venezuelans, and that would be an extremely foolish move for the regime to make.” Abrams emphasised that unseating Maduro, who still has the backing of the military, could take time.
The Bank of England refused a Venezuelan request for the return of more than one billion dollars' worth of gold it has on deposit. The refusal came after the United States urged Western countries to block the Maduro government from accessing any assets outside Venezuela's borders.
01 February 2019
Guaido rejected offers from Mexico's and Uruguay's presidents to negotiate with Maduro. Guaido told them in a letter that "to be neutral is to be on the side of the regime that has condemned hundreds of thousands of human beings to misery, hunger and exile, including death."
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met Friday with exiled Venezuelans in the southeastern U.S. city of Miami. Pence reassured them the U.S. would continue efforts to oust Maduro from office. "This is no time for dialogue," Pence said. "It is time to end the Maduro regime."
The Kremlin may have helped Venezuela's embattled socialist leader Nicolas Maduro swap gold for cash, transporting Venezuelan bullion deposited in Moscow to the United Arab Emirates and then flying U.S. currency into the Venezuelan capital, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta claimed. the newspaper alleged that on Jan. 29, a Russian-operated Boeing 757 cargo plane took Venezuelan gold stored in Russia's central bank to Dubai. The bullion was replaced with containers full of U.S. dollars and the aircraft, which is owned by the Russian company Yerofei, took off again and flew via Morocco to Venezuela, the paper said.
A senior Venezuelan official told the Reuters news agency that Caracas planned to sell 29 tons of gold to the UAE in return for euros and said the sale of the nation's gold began with a shipment of three tons on Jan. 26, following the export last year of $900 million in unrefined gold to Turkey. But the official said Moscow was not involved in the gold-for-cash operation.
02 February 2019
The U.S. said Saturday it is sending humanitarian aid to Venezuela in response to a request from Guaidó. The arrival of U.S. aid will likely set up a test for the Venezuelan military, which will have to decide whether to allow supplies to enter the country.
Guaido told supporters Saturday the opposition would start collecting humanitarian aid in Brazil, Colombia and an unnamed Caribbean island and called on the military to allow the aid into the country. The United States has said it would transport aid to Venezuela at Guaido's request. President Nicolas Maduro has refused to accept aid because he believes it opens the way for a U.S.-led military intervention.
Venezuelan human rights group, Foro Penal, has reported that there has been no repression against the opposition in Venezuela during a recent demonstration, despite constant assertions of such actions by the United States officials hoping to validate their coup attempts against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Foro Penal is a non-governmental organization that works throughout the entire country and which offers defense lawyers for those who feel they’ve been arbitrarily detained for exercising their constitutional rights to demonstrate. They reportedly have 5,000 volunteers, including non-lawyer activists among their ranks, working for human rights in the country.
Maduro’s supporters gathered at Bolivar Avenue, where the president called for a dialogue with the opposition in order to reach a peaceful solution to the current political stand-off. “Leave the path of Yankee interventionism, stop calling the war, stop supporting a coup that has already failed. The coup failed and they (the United States) do not realize it," he told the opposition. Maduro greeted the call for a dialogue by the governments of Uruguay, Mexico, and the U.N.’s Antonio Guterres, and announced parliamentary elections in order to restore the National Assembly, in contempt since 2016.
Two military leaders and an ambassador defected from the government of President Nicolas Maduro and instead recognized Guaido as the acting president. General Francisco Yanez called on other members of the military to defect as he announced his own defection in a social media video. He rejected Maduro's "dictatorial" authority and recognized Guaido as the acting president. Major General Jorge Oropeza, former air force general commander, said that he also recognized Guaido as acting president.
03 February 2019
Britain, France, Germany and Spain said they will follow the U.S. in recognizing National Assembly Speaker Guaido as Venezuela's interim president if Maduro does not order new elections by Sunday 03 February 2019. Maduro faced massive pressure to call for new elections before midnight on Sunday. Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Belgium have said they will recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as president if Maduro fails to announce a second vote before the eight-day ultimatum expires.
France's European affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, told LCI television that "if by tonight [President] Maduro does not commit to organizing presidential elections, then France will consider Juan Guaido as legitimate to organize them in his place and we will consider him as the interim president until legitimate elections in Venezuela [take place]." "The ultimatum ends tonight," she told French media. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Vienna would "acknowledge and support Juan Guaido as president ad interim of Venezuela" if Maduro failed to call new elections. The Austrian leader also said he had a "very good phone call with President" Guaido.
Maduro invited opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido to sit down with him and have a "face-to-face conversation." "Let's talk. Let's talk about the problems of the country and the solutions. Politics is not a child's game," Maduro said during an interview with the Spanish television show Salvados. Maduro said Guaido "should think about what he is doing. He's a young man with a lot of years of fight ahead. He shouldn't hurt the country anymore. He should stop the strategy of a coup and stop simulating a presidency in which nobody elected him."
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