China, Russia back Maduro
International skirmishes surrounding Guaidó’s recognition as Venezuela’s head of statecontinue, dicusses Paul Dobson
Self-proclaimed "interim president" Juan Guaidó of Venezuela named a number of "diplomatic representatives" to those countries which have recognised him during the past week. The government of Nicolás Maduro, the actual president of Venezuela, along with its international allies are responding to new U.S. oil sanctions and preparing for possible military intervention.
Guaidó designated fellow high-profile opposition members Julio Borges and Carlos Vecchio as representatives before the Lima Group and Washington respectively. Both have been associated with violent attempts against the Maduro government in recent years, with Borges implicated by authorities in the August drone terrorist attack and Vecchio having fled charges including arson and instigation of violence in 2014. Elisa Trotta was stationed in Argentina, Orlando Viera in Canada, Humberto Berti in Colombia, and Rene de Sola in Ecuador.
Following the appointments, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence held an hour-long meeting with Vecchio and Borges in Washington, after which another call for the Venezuelan armed forces to rebel the Maduro government was made.
Despite the naming of "diplomatic representatives" by the National Assembly president, the international skirmishes surrounding Guaidó's recognition as Venezuela's head of state have continued.
New Zealand announced its refusal to go along with Australia and other western countries in recognising Guaidó and reaffirmed its backing of President Maduro. Meanwhile, despite repeated appeals by the Venezuelan opposition, Pope Francis likewise refused to recognise the opposition leader, warning of his fears of "bloodshed." The Vatican was represented at Maduro's January 10 inauguration and continues to have diplomatic relations with his government.
Reports also suggest that the European Union has failed to achieve a consensus to back Guaidó, despite the key members of the UK, Germany, and France all doing so. Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez revealed that EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini called him Monday to discuss the possibility of Uruguay hosting an international dialogue summit to resolve the political crisis. Uruguay's El Pais newspaper reported that "according to the President, Mogherini told him that 'it is certain' that Europe will not have the necessary majority to recognise Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela."
Meanwhile, the pressure is growing on Guaidó inside Venezuela, with the country's Supreme Court issuing a travel restriction on the National Assembly Deputy following a request from Attorney General Tarek William Saab, as well as ordering the freezing of his local bank accounts whilst an investigation continues into his recent actions. On January 25, the Associated Press reported that as part of the preparations for his attempted seizure of power, Guaidó secretly traveled to Washington, Colombia, and Brazil in mid-December.
The measures generated a vociferous response from the Trump administration on Tuesday, who threatened "serious consequences" should either Guaidó or any of their diplomatic staff be arrested.
Both Venezuelan and foreign authorities reacted angrily to the new sanctions announced by Washington Monday, which amount to an effective embargo on Venezuelan oil.
Speaking in Caracas, President Maduro promised an "equal" response from nationalized oil company PDVSA, describing the sanctions—which included the freezing of PDVSA's U.S. subsidiary CITGO by U.S. authorities, the prohibition of transactions using bonds, and a general prohibition from engaging in transactions with PDVSA—as "daylight robbery."
Venezuela's Oil Minister and President of PDVSA Manuel Quevedo promised to take to international courts to overturn the sanctions. "We are evaluating all options … we aren't going to allow them to take our oil and steal our resources," he explained. Washington "must be paying the devil in oil," he added. For their part, China and Russia, who have significant oil contracts with PDVSA, also reacted to Washington's move, while internationally the price of oil remained steady.
Russia's Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov described the restrictive measures as "illegal" and reinforced his government's support for Caracas. CITGO was used as collateral for a loan deal with Russian state oil company Rosneft. Chinese authorities also responded to the measures, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang claiming that they are "unilateral" and that his government "opposes them."
"Historical experience has proved that external interference or sanctions will only complicate the situation and will not help solve practical problems…with sanctions leading to a deterioration of the people's livelihoods in Venezuela, and [those who imposed them] should be responsible for the serious consequences," he went on to state.
(Courtesy: People's World. The views expressed are strictly personal)