La Paloma Completica

The Atlantic Council hosted a panel discussion on Venezuela today in Washington, DC entitled “Will the Lights Go Out? Implications of a Venezuelan Market Turnaround.”

“Market turnaround….?”

The Venezuelan panelists were Luis Vicente Leon of Datanalisis, Fedecamaras President Jorge Roig and former Planning Minister Felipe Perez Marti.

The Atlantic Council’s advance billing of the event said Perez Marti, “…with an insider’s understanding of the Venezuelan economy… provides big picture analysis of the different factors influencing Venezuela’s economy at this crucial moment.”

Roig “…offers insight on how President Nicolas Maduro’s economic policies have affected production….(and) looks at the disruption of supply chains and the disorder in the financial markets and analyzes the impact this has on corporate operations.”

Luis Vicente Leon “has been conducting monthly polls on scarcity in Venezuela. With mounting concerns over the lack of basic goods in the country…. Leon’s data has been a warning signal of the growing discontent with the Maduro government’s policies. He advises many political, corporate, and non-profit clients on public opinion in Venezuela…”

The Atlantic Council always has been very strongly pro-globalization, pro-business and anti-sanctions, all Corporate America all the time. You can watch a video of the event here.

Leon and Roig preached to an appreciative choir, urging US policymakers to NOT impose any sanctions whatsoever on Venezuela as a country or individually.

Sanctions don’t work, and would only hurt the Venezuelan people while strengthening Maduro’s hand, they said.

Leon cited his direct personal experience, noting that when Datanalisis polled the public after late President Hugo Chavez announced he would visit Saddam Hussein in Iraq years ago, 73pc of respondents said they opposed their president’s decision.

But a subsequent poll done immediately after the State Department warned Chavez he should not visit Iraq showed a massive shift in public opinion, with 62pc of respondents declaring that Chavez must visit Iraq after the US warned him not to.

Leon’s point: the US must avoid doing anything that prods the average Venezuelan’s irrational nationalism in ways helpful only to the Maduro regime

Except Maduro isn’t Chavez. Maduro is a bus driver increasingly despised for the atrocities he is perpetrating against everyone, while Chavez always was in the pantheon of Venezuelan heroes like Simon Bolivar.

A majority of Venezuelans never wanted to get rid of Chavez, even after the horrific slaughter of April 2002, but at the close of Maduro’s first official year as president about two-thirds of the populace would like to be rid of him.

Also, while Chavez still lived Venezuela never experienced a crisis like it’s having now. Everything is collapsed, unstable, lacking, uncertain. The country has suffered over three months of sustained, escalating repression amid the worst economic downturn in decades.

Pdvsa wasn’t broken when Chavez defied the US and landed in Baghdad either, whereas today Pdvsa is a mortally wounded company on which Venezuela depends overwhelmingly for its survival.

But Leon may be right. Many Venezuelans and Latin Americans in general become furious whenever the gringos interfere in their sovereign business. Yeah, I know, gringos do have a long history of interventionism regionally with horrific results for democracy and human rights.

The US definitely should avoid blanket sanctions in Venezuela, but not because they don’t work. Instead, the US should avoid tangling with the Bolivarian regime because the history of Washington-Caracas relations is an endless succession of wrong calls and bad moves since John Maisto’s “Watch what Chavez does and not what he says” policy (aka Move the Goal Posts Continually) back in the late ‘90s.

Best to stay out of Venezuela’s affairs completely. And there’s no real urgent need to stop importing Venezuelan oil. Pdvsa very likely will sell off most or part of its Citgo subsidiary soon to raise cash, and the US oil industry is rebounding thanks to fracking. In a few years the US won’t need Venezuelan oil anymore.

Of course, that could change if there’s some kind of positive change in Venezuela. But that doesn’t appear likely for the foreseeable future, and even if Maduro and his entire gang of criminals is erased overnight, Venezuela in the years après the revolution would continue to be a terrible place to live and work.

But sanctions against individual Venezuelans aren’t necessarily counterproductive. The problem with these sanctions is they’re being applied against individuals who mostly won’t come to the US anyway. Lots of better places to hide stolen wealth than the US, and even if they’re banned from entering the US the mere threat of impending sanctions against specific individuals likely already has spurred them to withdraw their assets from the US or take other steps to insulate those assets against seizure.

With the “dialogue” officially over for now, MUD’s Ramon Jose Medina said efforts are under way now to meet with the Unasur foreign ministers and the Vatican’s envoy to Venezuela to determine how to advance a peaceful dialogue with the regime. Reads redundant? That’s the point. Good luck with that.

But Roig, Leon et al shouldn’t be overly concerned. The US won’t impose blanket sanctions on Venezuela. The US government has sanctions fatigue, too many sanctions for too long against too many countries. Sanctions certainly haven’t bothered the Cuban regime, which, to paraphrase a Venezuelan friend “lleva mas de cinco decadas mentiendole la paloma completica a los gringos.”

About Caracas Gringo

Representing less than 0.00000000001515152% of the world population as of 31 December 2011.
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