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CD176: Target Venezuela: Regime Change in Progress

Congressional Dish

Release Date: 06/25/2018

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Congressional Dish

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Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, is a country that has been experimenting with a new so-called “socialist” economic model for twenty years. For this sin, two consecutive Venezuelan Presidents have been targeted for regime change by the architects of the “free market” World Trade System, an economic system they intend to be global. In this episode, learn the recent history of Venezuela and hear the highlights of a March 2017 Congressional hearing (which was not aired on television in the United States) during which strategies for a Venezuelan regime change were discussed, and then learn about the regime change steps that have been taken since that hearing which have unfolded exactly how the witnesses advised. Pat Grogan joins Jen for Thank Yous. 

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Visual References

Sound Clip Sources

Hearing: Democracy Promotion in a Challenging World, House Foreign Affairs Committee, June 14, 2018.
Video: Debunking John Oliver on Venezuela, The Real News Network, June 9, 2018.
Hearing: Advancing US Business Investment and Trade in the Americas, House Foreign Affairs Committee, June 7, 2018.
Video: Pompeo calls for kicking Venezuela out of OAS and more sanctions, The Washington Post, June 4, 2018.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “In addition to suspension, I call on member states to apply additional pressure on the Maduro regime with financial sanctions and diplomatic isolation until such time as it takes the actions necessary to return genuine democracy and provide people desperately needed access to international humanitarian aid"
Hearing: Advancing U.S. Interests Through the Organization of American States, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, February 14, 2018.
Hearing: The Venezuela Crisis: The Malicious Influence of State and Criminal Actors, House Foreign Affairs Committee, September 13, 2017.
Empire Files: Constituent Assembly Dictatorship or Democracy in Venezuela? TeleSUR English, July 19, 2017.
Hearing:The Collapse of The Rule of Law in Venezuela: What the United States and the International Community Can Do to Restore Democracy, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee, July 19, 2017.
  • 07:15 Senator Marco Rubio: I also know this, and I do not speak for the president, but I’ve certainly spoken to the president, and I will only reiterate what he has already said, and I’ve been saying this now for a number of days: it is my—I have 100% confidence that if democracy is destroyed once and for all in Venezuela on the 30th in terms of the Maduro regime, the president of the U.S. is prepared to act unilaterally in a significant and swift way. And that is not a threat; that is the reporting of the truth.

  • 10:38 Senator Bob Menendez: Even as their president prevents international support for the basic humanitarian needs of its citizens—blocking an effort by the National Assembly to facilitate international systems—they are voting to demand fundamental freedoms. Despite the suffering of his people, and the international outcry, Maduro insists on clinging onto the shreds of a failed ideology his predecessor and a few colleagues in the region still champion.

Empire Files: Abby Martin Meets the Venezuelan Opposition, TeleSUR English, July 3, 2017.
Empire Files: Venezuela Economy Minister-Sabotage, Not Socialism, is the Problem, TeleSUR English, June 17, 2017.
Hearing: Venezuela's Tragic Meltdown, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, March 28, 2017.
Hearing: Venezuela: Options for U.S. Policy, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, March 2, 2017.
  • 21:30 Shannon O’Neil: The United States can and should also delve into Venezuela’s recent financial transactions, and specifically, its use of U.S.-based Citgo assets to collateralize its loans. CFIUS should investigate bond purchases by the Russian state-controlled oil company, Rosneft, who may, in the case of default, actually gain majority control of this critical refinery infrastructure here in the United States.

  • 21:53 Shannon O’Neil: Multilateral initiatives are perhaps more important and potentially more fruitful as a means to influence Venezuela. This will mean working behind the scenes to galvanize opposition and condemnation for the Maduro regime. This’ll be more effective than U.S. efforts alone as it will be much harder for the Venezuelan government to dismiss the criticisms and the actions of its South American neighbors as imperialist overreach. And such a coalition is much more possible today than in any time in the recent past, due both to the accelerating repression and the breaking of the last democratic norms in Venezuela, and due to the very different stances of South America’s recently elected leaders, particularly in Peru, in Brazil, and in Argentina. The OAS remains a venue and an instrument to focus these efforts. The U.S. should call on the organization to again invoke the Inter-American Charter to evaluate Venezuela’s democratic credentials and its compliance with them, and this could lead, potentially to sanctions and suspension of Venezuela from this multilateral body.

  • 23:00 Shannon O’Neil: And then, finally, the United States should begin preparing for change. If the Maduro regime is forced out or it collapses, the country will likely face humanitarian, economic, and financial chaos. And there’re two particular things the United States can start preparing for. The first is a wave of refugees. This will hit Venezuela’s neighbors the hardest—Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, nearby Caribbean nations. It’s important to help them with money, with supplies, potentially with personnel, and to back international NGOs in multilateral efforts to ease the suffering of these people. The second aspect to prepare for is a restructuring of Venezuela’s finances and its economy. A new government will need to renegotiate 140 billion dollars’ worth of external debt, whether or not the government has already defaulted upon it or not. And this massive undertaking will likely require an IMF rescue package and the baking of the international community and creditors. The U.S. will be vital in facilitating this as well as in helping a new government take the tough economic policy choices to turn the economy around. These will include, freeing the exchange rate, reinducing market prices, creating sustainable policies for the poor, and rooting out corruption. And thought this is complicated, the faster it occurs, the faster Venezuela’s economy will grow again.

  • 25:30 Senator Ben Cardin: We look at ways in which we can change the direction here, and it starts with the governance. When you have a corrupt government, it’s going to be very difficult to see international organizations willing to come in to help refinance their economy. Even though they have wealth, it’s going to be difficult to figure out how that takes place unless they have basic changes in the way their government’s doing business. And we don’t see any indication that that’s taking place. So, you’ve made a couple suggestions. One is we need to work with our regional partners, which I fully agree. So let’s start with OAS, which is the entire region, as to whether it’s realistic that the Democratic Charter provisions can in fact lead to change in Venezuela. Ultimately, it will require us to have the threat of at least two-thirds of the countries if we’re going to be able to invoke the Charter with some teeth. What is the likelihood that OAS could be effective as a real force in bringing about change by the Maduro government? Mr. Feierstein? Mark Feierstein: Well, thank you very much for that question, and actually, if I can hit on your two other points as well; first, with regard to humanitarian assistance. Under the Obama administration, the USAID in fact did put together a contingency plan to provide assistance if in fact, even when, the Venezuelan government is willing to receive it, and USAID has a warehouse in Miami that’s prepared to provide assistance. I know international organizations are prepared as well. There has been some dialog between the government and the Inter-American Development Bank with regard to economic reform, though, frankly at fairly lower levels, and there’s no indication at senior levels that they’re inclined at serious attempts at economic reform. With regard to the OAS, I think that we’re much better positioned now than we were a couple years ago, and that’s because of some changes in some key governments in the region—Argentina; Peru; Brazil; there was a reference to Ecuador, a potential change there as well. And I think that patience has clearly run out with Maduro. I think countries are more inclined now to take action. There has been hesitation to do so as long as the dialog was alive and long as the Vatican was engaged. One of the challenges has been with regard to the Caribbean countries, which receive significant petroleum assistance from Venezuela, and that has somewhat silenced them, and there’s been some divisions within the Caribbean. That said, I’m hopeful that in the coming months that as the situation deteriorates in Venezuela, and as that it becomes clear that the dialog cannot be successful unless there is more pressure. And I think there needs to be three forms of pressure: There needs to be domestic mobilization within Venezuela, in the form of protests. I think there needs to be additional sanctions applied by the United States to other countries. And I think there needs to be action within the OAS, including a threat of suspension of Venezuela from the organization if it does not comply with the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

  • 41:50 Senator Bob Menendez: Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, and its subsidiary, Citgo, which has energy infrastructure in the United States, are under extreme financial pressure and may not be able to pay their bills in the near future. Under a recent deal, 49.9% of Citgo was mortgaged to Rosneft, the Russian government-owned oil company run by Vladimir Putin’s crony Igor Sechin. It’s also possible that Rosneft acquired other PDVSA bonds on the open market that could bring their ownership potential to over 50%. If Citgo defaults on its debts, Rosneft, an entity currently under American sanctions because of Russia’s belligerent behavior, could come to own a majority stake in strategic U.S. energy infrastructure, including three refineries and several pipelines. Given the close ties between Rosneft and Putin, Putin’s interest in undermining the United States, and Putin’s willingness to use energy as a weapon, does this potential deal concern you should a sanctioned Russian company have control over critical U.S. energy infrastructure? I would hate to see Rosneft be the sign hanging over Fenway Park.

  • 44:50 Senator Bob Menendez: They’re— Unknown Speaker: No, I didn’t take it that way. Sen. Menendez: —just to the administration, because I think we can chew and walk gum—I know that my dear colleague, Senator Young, had a comment for me last week. I wish he was here—we can chew and walk gum, you know, and walk at the same time, which means as we’re going through cabinet officials, doesn’t mean we couldn’t get nominations that this committee, on a bipartisan basis, is generally processed very quickly.

  • 49:50 Senator Marco Rubio: On the USAID piece, there’s a reason why we’re not in there: they don’t let us. The Venezuelan government does not allow open aid because they deny that there’s an emergency.

  • *51:00 Mark Feierstein: As I noted before, I think we are better positioned now than we were a couple years ago because of changes in certain governments in the region, as we talked about—Argentina, Peru, Brazil, and others. I believe that, again, in the coming months, I think that some of the—that there is an opportunity—there will be an opportunity to invoke the Charter to threaten the suspension of Venezuela from the organization. And, I guess—I noted what I think, you know, we need. We need three forms of pressure for the dialog to succeed. I agree with you: dialog has not succeeded. The government has used it to buy time, to defuse domestic protests, to keep the international community at bay. But if the opposition’s able to mobilize internally; if we’re able to apply additional sanctions, and ideally, multilateralize them; and if we’re able to mobilize countries in the OAS to invoke the Charter to threaten the suspension of Venezuela from the OAS; I think, then, there would be greater prospects for a positive outcome in Venezuela.

  • 54:55 Senator Tom Udall: I didn’t vote in favor of increased sanctions against Venezuela (Ven-su-way-la). I thought then and I believe now they’re counterproductive and could lead to further entrenchment of the current Venezuelan (Ven-su-way-len) regime, and that’s exactly what happened. The Venezuelan (Ven-su-way-len) people, many who oppose the government, are suffering. They’re going without food, without medicine, without power, without the essentials.

  • 55:40 Senator Tom Udall: Mr. Smilde, are you clear that taking a hardline approach to Venezuela (Ven-su-way-la) will likely lead to a Cubanization of our policies there?

  • 56:11 Senator Tom Udall: As to Venezuela (Ven-su-way-la), can you outline what role you think the Foreign Relations Committee or others should take to encourage a multilateral effort to ensure that elections are held in 2018 and to prevent a Cubanization of policies in Venezuela (Ven-su-way-la)?

  • 58:00 Senator Tom Udall: Dr. O’Neil, would you agree that in Venezuela (Ven-su-way-la) different factions now view the situation as a zero-sum game?

  • 1:14:25 Shannon O’Neil: One thing that has in the past in Venezuela brought the opposition together is elections, right, is a mechanism that you’re pushing towards a particular goal. And so as we look forward for 2017, there’s a party-registration process that is about to begin, and there’s questions about who may or may not qualify there and if the National Electoral committee will actually play fair in that sense. That is something that you could rally together different groups if it’s seen unfair in terms of qualifications. And then we have pending elections that did not happen at the end of last year, regional elections that may or may not be put on the table. And so I think internally, a push for elections—because that is a constitutional mechanism for parties to participate in democracy—and perhaps outside as well, we can be pushing for these parts, even we know democracy is not existent there anymore, but can we push for elections, can we push, and that’s something, at least, to galvanize those that are not in power today.

Video: Trump: "The war in Iraq was a BIG FAT MISTAKE", Youtube, February 15, 2016.
Hearing: Deepening Political and Economic Crisis in Venezuela: Implications for U.S. Interests and the Western Hemisphere, Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, C-SPAN, March 17, 2015.
Hearing: Assessing Venezuela's Political Crisis: Human Rights Violations and Beyond, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, C-SPAN May 8, 2014.
White House Daily Briefing: Middle East Conflict and Coup in Venezuela, C-Span, April 16, 2002.
State Dept Daily Briefing: Middle East Situation and Failed Coup in Venezuela, C-SPAN, April 15, 2002.

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)