Venezuela: Trump administration hints at coup, ban on oil imports

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Donald Trump.

US Secretary of State and former CEO of oil giant Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson has threatened Venezuela with a ban on oil exports, only days after hinting that the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, could be overthrown by a military uprising.

Describing Venezuela’s armed forces as a possible “agent of change”, Tillerson suggested on February 1 that the military could “manage a peaceful transition” should they remove Maduro from office.

“In the history of Venezuela and in fact the history in other Latin American and South American countries, often at times, it is the military that handles [an undemocratic transition between governments],” he said.

He continued: “When things are so bad that the military leadership realises that it just can’t serve the citizens anymore, they will manage a peaceful transition.”

Tillerson also suggested that in this case, Maduro could be exiled to Cuba.

“If the kitchen gets a little too hot for him, I am sure that he’s got some friends over in Cuba that could give him a nice hacienda on the beach and he could have a nice life over there,” Tillerson said, arguing his peaceful ouster would be preferable to violence.

“Peaceful transitions, peaceful regime change, is always better than the alternative,” he said.

Tillerson’s comments were made during a speech at the University of Texas, ahead of a planned regional tour of Latin America.

Visiting Argentina on February 4, Tillerson threatened to ban the import and export of oil and crude products from Venezuela into the US to pressure Maduro to “return to the constitution”.

“Obviously, sanctioning the oil or in effect prohibiting the oil to be sold in the United States, or for the United States as well to sell or provide oil to Venezuela, or refined products, is something we continue to consider,” he said during a joint press conference with his Argentine counterpart in Buenos Aires.

Venezuela is the US’s third-largest oil supplier. About 60% of Venezuela’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from crude oil and its extracts.

“One of the aspects of considering sanctioning oil is what effect would it have on the Venezuelan people? Is it a step that might bring this to an end more rapidly?” Tillerson added. 

The US has already placed sanctions on several high-ranking Caracas officials, as well as a ban on financial dealings with the country and its state oil company, PDVSA.  

[Compiled from Venezuela Analysis.]

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