In 2018, Chavismo’s Time May Finally Run Out
U.S. policy toward Venezuela is changing — and so are political dynamics in Latin America.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s embattled regime ended a tumultuous 2017 by having to suppress renewed food riots resulting from the government’s failure to import sufficient supplies of pork leg, a traditional holiday staple. In one disturbance, a pregnant woman was shot dead by security forces on Christmas Eve.
Yet if 2017 ended poorly for Venezuela, 2018 is shaping up to be even worse.
Already, there have been new outbreaks of looting in the face of rampant shortages of food and basic goods. Inflation, which hit a reported 2,616 percent last year — the highest in the world — will continue to surge in 2018.
And, worst of all, due to bad management and corruption, oil production has fallen to one of its lowest points in three decades, “further depriving the cash-strapped country of its only major source of revenue and adding to the suffering of its people,” according to CNN.
It is difficult not to become inured to the daily drumbeat of catastrophic news coming out of Venezuela.
After all, Venezuela under Chavismo — the movement founded by the late strongman Hugo Chávez — has been this century’s longest ongoing train wreck. Prognostications about a final reckoning have marked the past five years, at least.
What makes 2018 different, however, are two new, important variables that haven’t existed before: One, a more active U.S. policy under U.S. President Donald Trump; and two, changing political dynamics in Latin America.
Ever since an impromptu White House meeting with the wife of a then-imprisoned political prisoner last February, Trump has made clear his intent to discard the Obama administration’s passive Venezuela policy.
Already, the administration has ramped up significantly the targeting of sanctions against individuals involved in human rights abuses, undermining democracy, corruption, and drug trafficking, thereby steadily delegitimizing the government. To date, more than 30 Venezuelan officials — including the president and vice president — have been sanctioned under the Trump administration, including four more this month. Just as important, others are now following the U.S. lead in sanctioning individuals, including Canada, Colombia, the European Union, and Mexico.
Moreover, in August, the administration levied a crucial economic sanction on the Maduro regime, restricting its ability to borrow money from U.S. creditors — severing one of its last economic lifelines. At the time, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “Maduro may no longer take advantage of the American financial system to facilitate the wholesale looting of the Venezuelan economy at the expense of the Venezuelan people.”
The ramifications of limiting that funding stream are on display today in Venezuela, with the regime unable to meet the import needs of the country.
Continue reading HERE.