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 U.S. threatens Russia: Must get out of Venezuela, all options open

U.S. to assess Russian “influence” in Venezuela: House passes three bills

Interventionists’ diplomatic debacle: Germany won’t recognize Guaido’s envoy as ambassador

Elliott Abrams fumbles on Guaido, the “President”

Guaido’s “achievements”

 

With imperialist threats to allies of Venezuela tension around the Bolivarian republic is increasing.

Media reports said:

U.S. threatens Russia: Get out of Venezuela

US President Donald Trump has warned that Russia must get out of Venezuela.

Speaking at the White House, Trump also warned, “all options are open” when it comes to getting Russia out of Venezuela.

Around 100 Russian troops touched down in Caracas on Saturday on a technical mission, which is part of a fulfillment of an accord on bilateral defense industry cooperation signed long ago. They are taking part in the technical mission in consultations with Venezuela’s government officials. Russian has said that the move was “in strict accordance with the constitution of that country, and with full respect for its legal norms.”

The move caused consternation in Washington, however, with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence calling the deployment an “unnecessary provocation”.

Pence also called on Russia to withdraw its support of Maduro and “stand with Juan Guaido”, the Washington-sponsored, self-proclaimed “interim president”. Guaido made the declaration in January.

Trump met with Guaido’s wife, Fabiana Rosales, on Wednesday, and pledged his support to her husband.

“Russia has to get out,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with the wife of Guaido.

When asked how he would make Russia leave, Trump said: “We’ll see. All options are open.”

However, the momentum behind his ploy has fizzled out. Now, Guaido is continuing with his rhetoric with a dwindling small number of followers.

John Bolton, the U.S. National Security Adviser, tweeted on Monday that the “United States will not tolerate hostile foreign military powers meddling with the Western Hemisphere’s shared goals of democracy, security, and the rule of law.”

Jim Inhofe (R-Iowa), chairperson, U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, echoed Bolton’s words, who threatened “whatever action necessary” should Russia encroach on “our hemisphere” last month.

Earlier in the week, Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, said during a phone conversation with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, that the U.S. would not stand by with respect to Russia’s actions in Venezuela.

U.S. to assess Russian “influence” in Venezuela

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved Monday three bills aimed at stepping up U.S. pressure against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

One of the bills is to assess Russia’s influence in Venezuela, as well as its implications for the U.S. and its allies.

The “Russia-Venezuelan Threat Mitigation Act” is a bi-partisan legislation introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D), which would require the U.S. State Department to provide a threat assessment and strategic approach for dealing with Russia’s military cooperation in Venezuela.

The bill now is to be passed by the Senate and then be signed by the U.S. President to become law.

The bill comes following landing of two Russian air force planes in Caracas on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops.

The second measure urges the Trump administration to provide up to $150 million in humanitarian aid.

The third bill would add new restrictions on the export of tear gas, riot gear and other items that could be used for crime control.

The three bills were adopted unanimously, which shows the bipartisan unity of interests.

On Tuesday, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to determine if the governments of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua should face mandatory U.S. sanctions for conducting significant transactions with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors.

Menendez refers to measures adopted under 2017’s Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act as a specific response to cooperation with Russia.

Menendez sent his letter only days after Russian military personnel arrived in Caracas.

Hypocrisy

Jorge Arreaza, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, criticized the U.S. position asserting that “such cynicism that a country with more than 800 military bases around the world, much of them in Latin America, and a growing military budget of more than US$700 billion, intends to interfere with the military-technical cooperation program between Russia and Venezuela.”

A number of analysts computed the U.S. military budget goes above US$1 trillion.

The U.S. legislation focuses the need to evaluate “the national security risks posed by potential Russian acquisition of Citgo’s energy infrastructure holdings in the U.S.”

Russia has not been silent on this issue. Sergey Lavrov denounced Monday that “Washington’s attempts to organize a coup d’état in Venezuela and [U.S.] threats against the legitimate government are in violation of the UN Charter.” And went on to say that the U.S. is conducting an “undisguised interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.”

While China also weighed on the matter. A spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Geng Shuang, declared Tuesday that Latin American nations are sovereign countries, able to decide by their own account with which States to collaborate, adding that the region  “does not belong to any country and it is not anyone’s backyard.”

Lima Group’s concern

The Lima Group, the imperialist camp-sponsored 13-states block, condemned Tuesday the presence of Russian military planes in Venezuela.

The foreign ministry of Argentina, a block-member, issued the block’s statement.

Activity halted at Venezuela’s oil port, upgraders

Venezuela’s main oil export port of Jose and the country’s four crude upgraders have been unable to resume operations following a massive power blackout on Monday.

The most recent oil shipment for export, on the carrier Dragon chartered by Russia’s Rosneft, left Jose, which is owned by state-run PdVSA, on March 24, according to Refinitiv Eikon vessel-tracking data and PdVSA’s trade documents.

PdVSA’s four crude upgraders in Orinoco Belt, capable of converting up to 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) of extra heavy oil into exportable crude grades, are operated along with Chevron from the U.S., Norway’s Equinor, France’s Total and Rosneft.

An electricity outage earlier this month also interrupted oil exports at Jose, the lifeblood of the OPEC country’s economy, eroding total export volumes and causing delays in loading and discharging oil.

Germany won’t recognize Guaido’s envoy as ambassador

The imperialist plan for intervention in Venezuela meets diplomatic obstacle.

A German government’s written response leaked Wednesday states that Germany will not recognize Guaido’s envoy to Berlin as Venezuela’s ambassador despite having recognized Guaido as “interim president” of the country after his self-declaration.

The local media Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (NOZ), which gained access to the government’s response, reported that Germany would not accredit Otto Gebauer as ambassador. Instead, he could be recognized as Guaido’s personal representative.

The German Foreign Affairs Ministry stresses that “political conditions” to recognize the Guaido’s envoy “are not met” given that the 30-day maximum period he had to call elections has expired.

The NOZ also published that Berlin is responding to a request of Spain’s government, which has asked its European partners not to grant diplomatic status to Guaido’s representatives.

The argument is that Guaido is politically recognized but without any legal effects since European countries seem unwilling to ignore the fact that President Nicolas Maduro and his government continue to hold control over most of Venezuela’s institutions.

The Venezuelan authorities have stressed that the U.S.-backed coup d’état has already failed and warned that those countries that recognized Guaido “will at some point have to review their decisions”, as HispanTV reported.

In February, Antonio Ecarri, another Guaido envoy, was not recognized as the Venezuelan ambassador in Spain either. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez administration accepted him as the Congressman’s personal representative but without granting him any diplomatic rank.

According to Calros Malamud, a researcher at the Elcano Real Institute, the Spanish government’s refusal is based on an “obvious” fact, namely, President Maduro is the person who is really exercising authority over the Venezuelan state.

“Today Maduro is the one who controls the power devices. From the perspective of international relations, it would be totally utopian for the Spanish government, or for any European government, to decide that it does not know that the control of the Venezuelan state is still in Maduro’s hands,” Malamud told the local media Alnavio.

The researcher added that if Spain recognized Guaido’s envoy as the legitimate Venezuelan ambassador, “Spanish interests would be left unprotected.”

Spanish multinationals such as Repsol, Telefonica, BBVA and Mapfre are working in Venezuela, a country where about 180,000 Spaniards reside also.

Elliott Abrams fumbles on how Guaido is “President”

A press conference with Elliott Abrams, U.S. special envoy to Venezuela, regarding Guaido has produced more questions than answers.

Abrams went on record to say the Venezuelan National Assembly passed a resolution that essentially goes against the country’s constitution. He says they voted for the 30-day term of the self-declared “interim president” Guaido, to start once President Nicolas Maduro steps down.

Abrams told journalists that Guaido’s 30-day interim presidency that was set to end by February 23, has not actually begun and will not until President Nicolas Maduro is out of office.

“The 30-day end to his interim presidency starts counting, because he’s not in power, that’s the problem. Maduro is still there,” said Abrams to reporters at the White House, effectively admitting that the man has zero authority in Venezuela.

The U.S.-backed Guaido declared himself interim president January 23 with the expectation that he would be able to call snap elections within 30 days, as permitted by invoking Article 233 of Venezuela’s constitution. However, the plan was foiled.

Guaido, not able to muster an overthrow of democratically elected Maduro, and now that the 30-day time frame is over, he and opposition allies in the National Assembly, in contempt of court for nearly two years, have passed a resolution saying that his interim status will not start until Maduro is removed.

“The (Venezuelan) National Assembly has passed a resolution that states that the 30-day period of interim presidency will not start ending, or counting, until the day Maduro leaves power. So the 30 days doesn’t start now it starts after Maduro leaves. That’s a resolution of the Venezuelan assembly,” said Abrams to the journalists.

A reporter challenged Abrams and the National Assembly’s constitutional jurisdiction to change the rules of the game midway.

“When did they do that?” asked a journalist.

“Ahh about, they did that roughly a month ago,” responded Abrams, somewhat confounded.

“So when he was took the mantle of the presidency that (resolution) wasn’t there, so that’s post facto. … That’s like saying I was elected president for four years and two years into it you change the rules so that your term hasn’t even started yet,” said the journalist.

Abrams retorted to the journalist that he did not get to vote “because you’re not in the national assembly.”

The U.S. official said that the assembly found the move “constitutional” and called the presidency “vacant” until “Maduro goes.”

A journalist continued to question Abrams, “so he (Guaido) isn’t interim president?”

“He is interim president but he’s not able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro is still there,” responded Abrams. “I think it’s logical.”

Guaido’s “achievements”

A Caracas, March 23, 2019 datelined AFP report said:

“Two months have now passed since Juan Guaido asserted himself as Venezuela’s interim president. Domestically, he has been unable to shake President Nicolas Maduro from power. But internationally, with US backing, he’s making some headway.”

Guaido is touring the country on what he calls “Operation Freedom”.

“But”, the report said, “there is no sign yet of him making good on his vow to ‘very soon’ march up to the presidential Miraflores Palace in Caracas and take over.”

The “What has Guaido achieved as Venezuela’s US-backed ‘interim leader?’” headlined report said, Maduro’s supporters held their own counter-demonstration in the capital. Venezuelan security forces arrested Guaido’s chief of staff Marrero, on charges of triggering terrorism. The arrest was followed by outcries by the European Union, the U.S. and their allies.

The report said:

Maduro “has managed to maintain surprising cohesion in such an adverse scenario,” analyst Mariano de Alba told AFP.

The military has ignored calls by Washington and Guaido to abandon Maduro in return for amnesty, he noted.

The head of the Datanalisis firm, Luis Vicente Leon, said the core of the military has not broken ranks.

He added that the opposition likely expected that only a US invasion would eject Maduro and thus it would reject any possible negotiations in the hope of “provoking a fracture.”

IDB meeting

On Friday, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) pulled its annual meeting out of China after Beijing refused to issue a visa to Guaido’s representative.

Washington is reportedly trying to have Guaido’s envoys replace Maduro’s officials on other international bodies, such as the UN Disarmament Conference in Geneva, where Venezuela is due to take over the rotating presidency.

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