Venezuela in Free Fall

One of the implications of the historic drop in oil prices which began in June, 2014, was to put severe pressure on a number of oil producing countries which depend on oil exports for a significant share of their government’s budget. At the top of the list is Venezuela.

Just over two years ago, I wrote a post expressing the opinion that the drop in oil prices would eventually mean the end of Nicolás Maduro’s government and while it is still managing to hold onto power, the end may finally be in sight. The problem is that the situation in the country has gone from bad to worse and the Venezuelan people are paying a high cost for the ineptness and corruption of the regime and the trauma might go on for another two years.

Parliamentary Elections

1477655024_933479_1477657994_portadilla_normalWith the loss of oil revenue, Maduro’s party predictably lost the elections held in December, 2015, holding on to only 55 of the 167 seats in the national assembly. Unfortunately the government has managed to stay in power and blocked a move to hold a recall of the current President back in September of 2016. If the opposition goes ahead with the recall at this point, Maduro would be succeeded by his Vice president, Tareck El Aissami, and he would stay in office until the scheduled Presidential elections in 2018.

Mafia State ?

According to Bloomberg, El Aissami is “one of Venezuela’s most controversial and feared politicians”. El Aisammi was Minister of the interior previously and is thought to control the internal security apparatus which has been ruthless in its attempts to suppress the opposition of civil society and ay come ot the government’s rescue if the military finally decided that enough was enough and move to remove Maduro forcibly from power.

Tareck-El-Aissami-PSUV-1Last week, the U.S. Treasury department  put El Aisammi on its list of international criminals and froze the assets  of a series of companies under his control. In a press release, the Treasury refers to him as a “Prominent Venezuelan Drug Trafficker” and states that he and an associate, Samark Lopez Bello, routinely uses oil distribution companies to launder drug money.

In his defense, El Aissami has placed a one page ad in the The New York Times proclaiming his innocence and pointing the anti-drug efforts of his administration. While it is difficult to know what is true, even the Trump administration would not target the Vice president of a sovereign country without some evidence, and the possibility exists that El Aisammi acted against Venezuelan drug rings to centralize the business under his and his party’s control. For the Guardian, there is no seperation between the State and the Drug Cartel in Venezuela!

Leopoldo Lopez

Screen Shot 2017-02-26 at 6.34.20 PMOne of the things that the Venezuelan opposition needs is inspirational leaders who can pull it together in this critical and extremely difficult time. One person who may be able to do that is Leopoldo Lopez (pictured above) who was arrested in February 2014 and is serving a 14 year sentence imposed on him by Maduro’s courts. Even Donald Trump recognizes the injustice of the situation and the severity of Venezuela’s plight and has met with his wife, Lilian Tintori, and supported his release on his precious twitter account.

According to a Venezuelan opposition blogger, Daniel Duquenal, the meeting with Ms. Tintori was arranged by Senator Marco Rubio and he welcomes Trump’s support despite his misgivings about the U.S. President.

How low can you go?

The last part of Venezuela’s melt down is the continued troubles in its national oil company PDSVA which, according to Reuters is producing only 2.5 million barrels per day, has a desperate cash shortage, and may be facing bankruptcy. As PDVSA supplies the U.S. China and even India, its collapse would have a huge impact on international oil markets.

Venezuela desperately needs a new government and the support of its neighbors in Latin America as well as the United States. The problem is that Maduro, El Aissami, and the rest of the gang will not leave quietly.