December 21, 2020
By George Landrith • Townhall
Venezuela’s recent facade election makes the country’s recovery a great deal less likely and it strengthens dictator strongman Nicolas Maduro’s grasp on power. The election results were a foregone conclusion because the entire charade was overseen by Maduro’s cronies and the opposition led by rightful Venezuelan president, Juan Guaidó, boycotted the election because of its obvious deficiencies.
American foreign policy should not strengthen the hand of a ruthless dictator who lacks any semblance of legitimacy. Likewise, American foreign policy should not harm Americans or strip away their property rights in an attempt to help said ruthless dictator. This much should be obvious.
To many Americans, Venezuela’s problems and its slide into a socialist dictatorship seem like a theoretical plight thousands of miles from our shores. But the truth is — Venezuelan government-owned CITGO is a sizable oil company with significant operations within the U.S. Thus, as Venezuela’s problems have mounted, its troubles find their way to America.
The Biden transition team includes people who have a long history of being soft on the Venezuelan dictatorship and who have opposed actions by American creditors to collect debts they are justly owed from CITGO. It is important that the Trump Administration immediately take action to allow real and rightful creditors to be paid the debts they are owed by the Venezuelan government and CITGO.
The ongoing effort by mining company Crystallex to try and reclaim damages from the Venezuelan government illustrates this fact. In 2002, the company was awarded a contract to operate in the Las Cristinas region of Venezuela. They invested more than $500 million in infrastructure upgrades and social projects to benefit the local community. But in 2011, dictator Hugo Chavez seized the mine and stole Crystallex’s property after the company refused to pay bribes. Crystallex has since been granted compensation for this theft by the World Bank, and several U.S. federal courts. However, the Trump administration’s Treasury Department refuses to approve Crystallex’s claim and allow them to be repaid with CITGO’s assets. This inaction rewards a socialist dictator at the expense of a private business and property rights.
The bottom line is that until a true, democratic Venezuelan government is in place, Venezuela’s dictatorship shouldn’t be able to lock out American creditors from being paid the sums they are rightfully owed. This point is doubly true when one realizes that the repressive Maduro regime is all too happy to raid CITGO corporate assets in the U.S. to the detriment of Americans and also use them as way to generate cash that can be used to repress Venezuelans who seek freedom, democracy and a legitimate government.
Countless companies and investors are owed millions of dollars from the Venezuelan government for the crimes of expropriation committed under the brutal and dictatorial regimes of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. As the current and illegitimate Venezuelan regime refuses to give these companies and investors their due, it makes no sense to do anything that would harm the property rights of American firms and citizens.
The rightful president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, has also asked that the United States prevent the current Venezuelan dictatorship from using the pretext of law to obtain their stolen dollars from CITGO. Guaidó hopes to get his nation back on a firm financial footing and he knows that allowing the current dictatorship to steal expropriated assets would only further endanger the future of Venezuela. So, it is clear that both the interests of the United States and the legitimate government of Venezuela strongly align and run parallel.
The Trump Administration should make it clear to Venezuela that the United States stands for property rights. Property rights promote economic stability, justice, and growth — all things that Venezuela desperately needs. Moreover, standing up for property rights will protect the interests of Americans who are owed money by CITGO. There is simply no good reason to allow Maduro to raid company coffers and leave investors with nothing to collect on their investments.
March 22, 2020
By Steve Forbes • Real Clear Policy
Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently told “60 Minutes” it would be “unfair” to say “everything is bad” about Cuba’s Fidel Castro and the Communist revolution he staged during the 1950s. Even fellow Democrats could not believe their ears. Sanders went so far as to describe Castro as a man of accomplishment, noting how Castro started a “massive literacy program” for the people of Cuba. Sure he did, right after he wiped out thousands of his political opponents, created forced labor camps, seized the property of all dissidents, and imposed country-wide religious repression. Sanders sounds like the defenders of Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy, who praised Mussolini for making the trains run on time and draining the malarial swamps around Rome.
Bernie conveniently ignores how the brutality of Castro’s government forced millions of Cubans to flee their homeland, leaving behind all their possessions. And let’s be clear, Sanders’ commentary was not a mistake. Even the New York Times notes how Bernie has a long history of lauding Castro’s government, expressing “…praise not only for Mr. Castro in Cuba but also support for the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Sanders’ remarks likely cost him the recent Florida Democratic primary given the widespread opposition to communism and socialism within the Latino community.
The sad reality is that Bernie Sanders honestly believes Cuba’s model of government should be replicated all over the world. This process is happening in Venezuela, where another brutal dictator, Nicolas Maduro, with the backing of Cuban security forces, is destroying the nation he is supposed to represent.
The situation in Venezuela is tragic. The country has experienced near-total economic and social collapse under Maduro’s corrupt regime. President Trump is correctly acting to oust Maduro by imposing harsh economic sanctions against Maduro’s government and the Russian and Cuban businesses helping him. The tough sanctions are placing massive pressure on Maduro, and the president should stay the course.
But the Trump administration should take care not to eliminate America’s presence in Venezuela as part of a strategy to drive Maduro from power. America has maintained a century-long relationship with Venezuela — specifically with Venezuela’s energy industry. Venezuela sits on the world’s largest oil fields, and it’s imperative that Russia, China and Cuba are not allowed to gain unconstrained access to these oil fields. If American companies remain in the country, they will be able to help the next democratic Venezuelan government rebuild quickly.
Some of President Trump’s advisors believe it might be a good idea to force American companies to exit Venezuela and further tighten the economic screws on Maduro. But if American companies leave Venezuela, it will likely make it harder for the Trump Administration to remove Maduro and his criminal regime from power. An American exit would only empower Maduro and strengthen Russia, and Cuba’s hold on the country.
We certainly don’t want Venezuela to become another Cuba, but this could happen if America withdraws completely. If American companies leave, it will remove the last barriers to a complete Communist takeover by Cuba, financed by Russia, drug cartels and other criminals.
President Trump has wisely imposed crippling sanctions against Venezuela’s Maduro and the international actors that support him. The Trump team should let this process play out while preserving America’s Venezuelan presence for the future.
Sanders’ flippant remarks are a sharp contrast with President Trump’s tough but fair approach to Venezuela. Hopefully, America will continue to stand strong against Maduro while keeping the door open for a future relationship with a democratic Venezuela.
March 1, 2017
Want to lose weight fast? Don’t worry about the latest fad diet. Just move to Venezuela. There, the new Socialist Diet has caused the population to lose millions of pounds in 12 months. Unwillingly, of course.
A new study of Venezuela’s stunning decline under Hugo Chavez’s socialist model, still followed faithfully by his lap dog successor, Nicolas Maduro, reports that the average Venezuelan lost 19 pounds in the last year. Today, the 2016 Living Conditions Survey finds, 32.5% of Venezuelans eat only once or twice a day, up from 11.3% just one year ago. And 93.3% of all people don’t earn enough to buy sufficient food.
American Thinker blogger Ronald C. Tinnell called it “The Venezuelan Miracle Weight Loss Program.” Continue reading →
April 23, 2013
The recent post-Chavez presidential election in Venezuela clearly placed the country on a ruinous political, economic and social quicksand. The questionable razor-thin victory of Chavez’s handpicked successor Nicholas Maduro and the relative strength of his opponent Henrique Capriles show that the electorate was almost evenly split between its determination to uphold the status quo and its desire for essential changes in government. President Maduro faces the difficult task of attempting to maintain a regime that half of the Venezuelan people do not want. Continue reading →