Venezuela: Trump administration calls for regime change

January 30, 2017
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The new US administration of President Donald Trump publicly declared it will seek regime change in Venezuela. The call, disguised in “transition to democracy” rhetoric, was made by Trump’s proposed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“If confirmed,” the ex-Exxonmobil CEO told Latin America Goes Global, “I would urge close cooperation with our friends in the hemisphere, particularly Venezuela’s neighbours Brazil and Colombia, as well as multilateral bodies such as the OAS, to seek a negotiated transition to democratic rule in Venezuela.”

He further claimed that the economic crisis in the oil-rich South American country was “largely a product of its incompetent and dysfunctional government, first under Hugo Chavez, and now under his designated successor, Nicolas Maduro”.

The government of President Maduro has, however, blamed the recent crisis on an economic war by right-wing politicians as well as corporations who are hoarding products and halting production to put pressure on the socialist administration.

Tillerson called for sanctions against what he called “human rights violators” when asked about alleged political prisoners while also slamming the elected Maduro government for “undemocratic practices”.

Asked about Cuba, Tillerson said he would stand by statements made by Vice-President Mike Pence stating that the Trump administration would reverse Obama’s Cuba rapprochement policy.

Tillerson and Venezuela have a bitter history and some say he might pursue personal revenge against the socialist government as he takes the international diplomatic stage in Washington.

In 2007, late president Hugo Chavez ordered the nationalisation of 22 major multinational corporations operating in the country, including ExxonMobil — then headed by Tillerson.

The ExxonMobil head rejected the compensation deal offered by the government of US$1 billion and took Venezuela to the international arbitration court demanding instead US$10 billion. But the rarely-defeated CEO lost and his company settled for $1.6 billion.

“(Tillerson) took it very personal with Chavez,” said Ghassan Dagher, a Venezuelan oil industry consultant to the New York Times in December.

However, Venezuela’s foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez called on January 22 for the new administration to repeal the executive order issued by former President Barack Obama that declared Venezuela a threat to US national security and foreign policy.

“Venezuela has consistently called for that executive order to be repealed and we hope President Trump will not go down the path of obsession and irrationality,” Rodriguez said in an interview with Venezuela's private television network Televen, adding that the decree “has the power to be repealed”.

Rodriguez said Maduro’s government has confirmed its decision to maintain respectful relations with the Trump White House in the hopes that international rights and the sovereignty of the people are respected.

The comments come after Obama renewed a controversial executive order against Venezuela earlier this month that declares the South American nation an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security. The Obama administration first issued the decree in 2015 and extended it last year.

The order was not set to expire until March, but the White House pushed ahead the renewal in the name of ensuring a “smooth transition” to Trump’s presidency.

Obama also ordered sanctions against Venezuelan officials, saying they would be banned from travelling to the United States and all assets and properties belonging to them would be frozen, in light of the country's political and economic hardship.

According to Rodriguez, this order was supported by the right-wing opposition in the country as a means to attack Maduro’s socialist government.

[Compiled from TeleSUR English.]

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